Competition at Western States

One of the things I love about running Western States is the depth of the competition.  There isn’t a comparable 100 miler in this country in terms of quality of field and the fact that so many runners peak for this race.  As the race is very difficult to get into, my goal each year has been to finish in the top ten so I can get an automatic spot to come back the following year and do it again.  Each year I hope to be in position at the river crossing so I can compete for the coveted automatic entry.  This year is no exception.  I want to finish 10th man.  Chicks in front of me don’t matter.

You’ve probably heard either me or AJW refer to Tommy Nielsen’s advice to run the end of 100 milers like there is somebody 3-4 minutes ahead that you’re trying to catch and somebody else 3-4 minutes behind trying to catch you.  That is so true at Western States (unless you’re Hal or Jurek or Morton and you’ve run away from the field) and it can be a real source of motivation when you’ve gone 90 miles, pretty much everything hurts, and all you want to do is stop.  I’ve had some great races in my five Western States finishes.  In 2004 and 2005, the two years I was 10th man, I didn’t get into the 10th position for good until Brown’s Bar and No Hands Bridge, respectively.  Let me tell you, it is a lot of fun fighting for that tenth spot.  It can be a bit stressful, and in the heat of the moment I’ve told my pacer that it would be much easier if I was in 6th place, but I do love the added element of competition at the end of Western States.

I’ve referenced Jeff Johnson’s speech to the 2001 Borderclash runners before in this blog.  I really like his speech to these high school cross-country runners.  I like it so much that I even had the great Ed Willson from Eugene read it the night before the 2005 WS race to all the Eugene runners in Alpine Meadows. His perspective on competition is spot on.  He quotes Al Oerter, the 4-time Olympic gold medalist in the discus:

“I’ve never competed against anyone in my life. I’ve always competed with people. To compete against people is a negative thing. To compete with people is a celebration, a celebration of human capability.”

He continues with his own words, “the worthy competitor is essential to the race, not as an enemy, but as a co-conspirator. The race, you see, is a secret form of cooperation. The race is simply each of you seeking your absolute best with the help of each other.”  No matter whether you’re fighting for the win, the 10th spot, to break 24-hours, or simply to beat the cutoffs, I think we can all thank each other for conspiring to get the best out of each other.  If I’m near you in the race, whether I’m in 10th or 50th, you can rest assured I will be giving it my all to help the both of us get the most out of ourselves.

In conclusion, I compiled the names and times of the 10th man in all of the Western States races since 1978. I’ve heard many people surmise that this year will be the most competitive of all WS races and I’ve been asked what I think it will take to get into the top ten.  This field is very deep, thanks in part to the fires of 2008, but also to the Montrail Ultra Cup which allows elite runners to earn a spot to the big dance, but I still think 18:30 will get in the top ten men.  Hope everybody racing has a memorable and enjoyable day.

Year 10th Man Time
2007 Jae-duk Sim 18:44
2006 Glen Redpath 21:03
2005 Craig Thornley 18:25
2004 Craig Thornley 18:46
2003 Mike Sweeney 18:49
2002 Tom Lyons 19:18
2001 Dean Karnazes 19:45
2000 Dean Karnazes 19:32
1999 Mark McDermott 19:45
1998 Mike Tupper 20:09
1997 Kevin Rumon 19:50
1996 Jeff Hines 20:50
1995 Madero Herrera 21:07
1994 Rudy Goldstein 20:16
1993 Alfred Bogenhuber 20:52
1992 Bernd Leupold 20:17
1991 Dana Miller 18:35
1990 Bernd Leupold 19:30
1989 Alfred Bogenhuber 18:53
1988 Doug Latimer 18:43
1987 Jim Pomroy 20:08
1986 Dave Stevenson 19:29
short course
1985 Tim Twietmeyer 18:42
1984 Gard Leighton 18:49
1983 Charles Hoover 18:44
1982 John Kanieski 19:41
1981 Bill Davis 20:35
1980 Tom Zavortink 21:46
1979 Sid Christie 19:05
1978 Gordy Ansleigh 22:40

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  1. I’d been waiting for someone to throw down a 10th place time guess. Nice revisiting of history to give a look at what it’s taken in the past.

    My question becomes how many non-Californians will crack the top 10 this year? Looking at the entrant list I’m guessing more than 5 this year. Would that be the most ever in the history of WS?

    Good luck to everyone this weekend. Have a great run

  2. Interesting. My expectations on these times would have been for it to show a trend of dropping over time. Doesn’t look like that happens.

    Good luck Craig and to everyone running. Make sure you take time to enjoy the experience.

  3. LB,
    Enough elite runner talk(Love me, look at me, see how good I am) :).
    How about some stats from the world I live in? How many will break 24?…I say a record high of 110. Imagine breaking 24, placing 100th, and 45% of the field drops? Oh, and here’s you buckle. Wait, sorry, we ran short this year, we’ll mail to you. If you pay the shipping.

    @Jasper, that’s pretty funny, cuz it’s probably true.

  4. @Grae Van Hooser – As I sit here on my mom’s deck in ALT looking over the American River Canyon, I predict the following:

    The last runner to break 24 hours will run 23:something. This is probably a Ticerism although I’ve never heard him say it. I doubt they’ll run out of buckles since they didn’t give any away last year. Oh, and if they do, maybe this year they’ll present the buckles from the slowest to the fastest.

    See you at Squaw.

  5. @Grae Van Hooser – A little taper-wonked are you? Actually, just drinking ice water. Probably going to be hyponatremic before I start. It was a little toasty on the drive down (103 near Redding), but it was only 89 by the time I got to No Hands Bridge at 7:30pm. Quite pleasant compared to the YMCA sauna. Bring on 100 degrees!

  6. Sorry for the late response to this post, but work and chores have been keeping me too busy. I thought congratulations were in order, Craig, for having the fastest M10 finishing time (2005) in the last 31 years. Cheers!

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