40th Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run set for Saturday

Event has new race director
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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Western States by the numbers

1       Winner from each gender 

6       Runners who call Auburn home 

30      Hours runners have to complete the race 

34      Countries being represented by the field 

70      Years lived by eldest entered runner 

100.2  Miles to run from Squaw Valley to Placer High

369     Runners expected to start the race 

1,500  Volunteers helping put on the endurance event


The race from Squaw Valley to the Endurance Capital of the World is set for Saturday.

Starting at 5 a.m., a field of 369 entrants are expected to take part in the 40th running of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

This year’s rendition of the prestigious race features ultrarunners from 34 different countries who all have the same goal: finish the trail in fewer than 30 hours.

Participants will start at the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics Games and conclude their journey by circling the track at Placer High School’s LeFebvre Stadium.

Last year’s race was won by Timothy Olson in record fashion, albeit in cool, rainy conditions. The 29-year-old of Ashland, Ore., finished in a stunning time of 14 hours, 46 minutes and 44 seconds. The previous record was held by Geoff Roes, whose mark of 15:07 was set in 2010.

Olson returns this year and is projected by some to be the favorite to win on what is predicted to be a sweltering day. 

On the women’s side last year, Canada’s Ellie Greenwood took down an even more revered record — Ann Trason’s 1994 mark of 17:37. Greenwood, who was the defending champion, repeated with a record time of 16:47:19.

Greenwood, however, won’t be competing this year. So that likely makes Rory Bosio of Soda Springs, second to Greenwood last year, the woman to beat.

Should Olson put forth a similar effort this year, he’d be making his way around Stacy Dragila Track at about 7:45 p.m.

But first, he and the rest of the field have to climb and descend upon some 40,000 feet through the Granite Chief Wilderness and canyons of historic Gold Country and cross the Middle Fork of the American River. To top it all off, triple-digit temperatures are in the forecast.

With the race just a few days away, here are some storylines to pay close attention to:

Thornley’s first try

Craig Thornley is running the Western States for the first time — as race director, that is.

Thornley, who just recently moved down to Auburn from Oregon, takes over for past director Greg Soderlund.

Soderlund has been in charge for the past 15 years and was planning on retiring after this year but had to step down early because of medical conditions.

Thornley, meanwhile, has been putting in some 18 hours of work a day for the past month to tie up loose ends.

“It’s been a bit overwhelming,” said Thornley, who has completed the Western States eight times in the past, including top-10 finishes in 2004 and 2005, and was previously the race director of the Waldo 100K in Oregon. “All of the details and things have been in place for a long time, but it’s been a bit challenging going through all of the details. I’m getting the hang of it and it’s coming together. It’s going to be great seeing all of the runners coming together.”

The gig has been more work than Thornley originally expected. He hopes to make changes in the future so there is more delegation throughout the organization.

“It’s overwhelming the number of people that come to the race director for answers,” he said.

Nonetheless, Western States legend Tim Twietmeyer, who now serves as vice president of the board of trustees for the race, said Thornley is adjusting well.

“We have a ton of volunteers so a lot of it comes down to a million little details,” said Twietmeyer, who misses competing in the race but is glad to be giving back. “Craig’s picking up the ropes pretty well.”

1,000 Mile 10 Day Buckle

Tanzania’s Simon Mtuy has finished Western States nine times in fewer than 24 hours.

If he’s able to do it a 10th time, he’ll be awarded a 1,000 Mile 10 Day Buckle.

Mtuy first ran Western States in 2002 and has returned almost every year since.

“He’s a great guy,” Thornley said. “He comes over every year. He’s got records for running over Mount Kilimanjaro. Everybody knows Simon.”

According to Thornley, the 1,000 Mile 10 Day Buckle has been awarded to 31 runners.

This year, Bruce LaBelle of Davis is also going for one.

Anniversary of historic run

This year’s race marks the 40-year anniversary of Gordy Ainsleigh’s historic run.

In 1974, the Meadow Vista resident became the first person to cover the entire 100 miles of the Western States Trail between Tahoe and Auburn on foot in fewer than 24 hours.

Ainsleigh, 66, is entered to run this year’s Western States.

Auburn’s 6-pack

There aren’t many Auburn runners in this year’s field.

Along with first-time runner West Bourgault, there are five other entrants who call Auburn home. Dan Barger, Robert Chalfant, Matt Keyes, Pete Korn and Kimberly White are also entered.

Keyes may be the leader of the pack.                                                                         

“Matt Keyes should run well,” Twietmeyer said.

Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel