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The Western States Endurance Run

Juxtaposition of exhaustion and achievement
By: Paige Smith
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Western States Endurance Run

5 a.m. Saturday, June 23

Begins at the west end of Squaw Valley

The race culminates at Placer High inside LeFebvre Stadium, on the all-weather track.

The first runner is expected to reach Placer High between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.

On June 23 starting at 5 a.m. in Squaw Valley, 369 runners will begin a 100-mile run until they reach Placer High School’s LeFebvre Staduim in Auburn. Craig Thornley, race director of Western States Endurance Run gave a brief overview of what the nonprofit has done and continues to do to improve the lives of runners.

The historic Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run started in 1974 with Gordy Ainsleigh. The run’s website states that in the miles between Squaw Valley and Auburn, runners experience the majestic high country beauty of Emigrant Pass and the Granite Chief Wilderness, the crucible of the canyons of the California gold country, a memorable crossing of the ice-cold waters of the main stem of the Middle Fork of the American River and during the latter stages, the historic reddish-brown-colored trails that led gold-seeking prospectors and homesteading pilgrims alike to the welcoming arms of Auburn.

“People run in and out of canyons and through some mining history near old equipment,” Thornley said.

Since the race goes through Granite Chief Wilderness, organized events are not allowed in the area. After a long process, the Western States Endurance Run was grandfathered in and allowed to go through the wilderness. The only stipulation to this agreement was that no more than 369 runners could be in the race each year.

Thornley explains that they have had over 5,000 applicants for the 369 slots. They use a lottery system for those who qualify for the race, and if applicants apply various years, they get double tickets for the lottery.
Sponsors for this event help keep the cost low for participants at $410, unlike other races. Some sponsors include Altra, MicroLumen, VESPA, Comstock Heritage, Red Bull and more. 

The Western States Endurance Run organization invites all community members from Auburn and other local communities out to watch the runners, at least to the finish lines.

Thornley explains that the first runners come in around 7 p.m. and then continue to come in until the next morning. However, he adds that the Golden Hour between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. is when there are more people than any other and inspiring for those present at the finish line to watch.

“These are the people who have jobs and families and have managed to run all the way to Auburn from Squaw Valley, it is incredible to witness,” Thornley said. “I say it is a juxtaposition of human exhaustion and human achievement which is hard to duplicate; if everyone could spend time at the Western States Finish Line, I think the world would be a better place.”