With help of 6,000 hours of volunteer work, Western States 100-Mile Endurance run set for Saturday

Prestigious event features runners from 25 different countries
By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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WS 100 by the numbers

1 Winner from each gender

3 Runners from Auburn, including Matt Keyes and Dan Barger

19 Age of Jared Hazen, youngest runner in the field

25 Countries being represented by the field

69 Age of Fenton Cross, eldest runner in the field

100.2 Miles to run from Squaw Valley to Auburn

359 Runners expected to start the race

6,000 Hours of volunteer work to fix trail after American Fire

Western States calendar

Tuesday and Wednesday:

8 a.m.-5 p.m. — Inaugural Medicine in Ultra-Endurance Sports Conference in Squaw Valley, led by Western States Medical Research Director Dr. Marty Hoffman.


10 a.m. — Trek to Emigrant Pass for annual flag raising at Watson Monument; program at the monument begins at noon.

6:30 p.m. — Veteran’s Panel hosted by Andy Jones-Wilkins at Squaw Valley Conference Center.


9 a.m.-1 p.m. — Runner check-in and drop bag drop-off at Start Line Arch at Olympic Plaza in Squaw Valley.

10 a.m. — Montrail 6K Uphill Challenge to High Camp.

1:30 p.m. — Prerace meeting and briefing at Squaw Valley Conference Center.

2:30 p.m. — Ultra-Trail World Tour press conference featuring several of the sport’s stars at Squaw Valley Conference Center.


5 a.m. — Race starts from Start Line Arch in Squaw Valley.

Saturday evening — Men’s winner expected to arrive at Placer High School track between 7:45-8:15 p.m.; women’s winner expected to arrive at Placer High track around 10-11 p.m.


5 a.m. — Last sub-24-hour silver belt buckle finisher has finished.

11 a.m. — Last official finisher has finished.

12:30 p.m. — Awards ceremony at Placer High School track. 

More WS Coverage

Catch up on all of the Auburn Journal's Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run coverage at this one-stop link. 

It took 6,000 hours of work to fix — all from volunteers.

But after being torched by the American Fire in August, the 10-mile stretch of trail that was affected by last year’s blaze will be open for Saturday’s 41st annual Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run.

“It was phenomenal to be able to run on the course this year,” said Craig Thornley, second-year race director. “It was an amazing effort. We’ve always done a lot of trail work. But this year was phenomenal how many hours we did. I’m super pleased runners get to use the normal trail and run Deadwood Canyon where the Swinging Bridge is located.”

Starting at 5 a.m. in Squaw Valley, a deep field of about 359 ultrarunners is taking off for the footrace to Placer High School in Auburn.

Some runners are aiming for a first-place finish, while others are racing against the clock, hoping to get to the Endurance Capital of the World in fewer than 30 hours.

Thornley said the men’s field “is just crazy” and “is the best one we’ve assembled in terms of 100-milers.” The women’s side isn’t as deep, as there are only 84 ladies entered but last year’s Cougar Trophy winner Pam Smith of Oregon is returning to defend her title.

Two-time defending champion Timothy Olson of Oregon, who holds the course record in a blazing time of 14 hours, 46 minutes, elected not to run this year, making the event a wide-open affair.

“To pick winners is not easy,” Thornley said.

Last year, part of the Western States Trail was scorched from Aug. 10-29. The American Fire raged through a historic part of the trail from Last Chance to near Devil’s Thumb.

A collective group of volunteers from the Western States Trail Foundation and Tevis Cup put in a ton of hours of work through the winter and fall, bringing back burned areas of the trail.

“We might have 2,000 volunteer hours on an average trail year,” said trail crew member Elke Truscott of Auburn, who is also running the Western States 100 Saturday. “This year we had 6,000. It was a big concentration from Last Chance to Devil’s Thumb. We replaced the Pacific Slab Mine Bridge, which was built by Bill Rose at his home. It was disassembled, brought to Last Chance, hand carried down to the site and rebuilt. It was kind of the highlight of our efforts.”

A foreign affair

Runners from 25 different countries, covering every continent except Antarctica, are hitting the trail for the run.

This year’s Western States 100 could very well be won by a foreign invader, as the race is part of the newly formed Ultra-Trail World Tour, a series of the world’s most prestigious ultraruns. 

The Western States is the only run in America featured on the tour.

“The Ultra-Trail World Tour brought more people in,” Thornley said. “Some locals don’t necessarily like it but we’re trying to spread qualifying runs more across the world, bringing in more runners throughout the world. It’s fun to have the foreign runners come. We get to share the Western States Trail they’ve heard so much about. We like to share with everybody.”

Catherine Poletti, race director of the popular Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 100-miler that traverses through Italy, France and Switzerland, and Patrick Basset, medical director of the UTMB, have flown to the Golden State to check out the Western States. 

“It feels good to have them come over to our race,” Thornley said. “We’re going to go to their race, with several Western States board members. We’re going to share ideas and work together. It’s good for the sport.”

Basset will be one of several speakers at Tuesday and Wednesday’s inaugural Medicine in Ultra-Endurance Sports Conference in Squaw Valley, led by Western States Medical Research Director Dr. Marty Hoffman.

Second time around

For Thornley’s first time directing the Western States, last year’s run ran rather smoothly.

And runners seem to be big fans of the new race director.

“He’s doing fantastic,” said Meghan Arbogast of Cool, who is expected to be one of the top local area finishers. “He’s keeping a lot of really good tradition going strong. That’s important to the founders of the race and people that have been into it for years. He’s keeping it authentic. He’s also very engaged with the running community. He’s out there really being a part of it.”

Erik Skaden of Folsom, who is going for a rare 1,000-Mile, 10-Day Buckle this year, agreed.

“The ultra community in Auburn and the Western States community are lucky to have Craig Thornley,” said Skaden, who has nine Western States 100 finishes to his name, each in fewer than 24 hours. “He’s doing an excellent job. He’s carrying the torch for all of us and making sure it continues its rich tradition.”


Reach Matthew Kimel at Follow him on Twitter @matthewkimel