WS RD and President History

With the announcement today by the Western States Board of Directors that the search has begun for the successor to the retiring RD, Greg Soderlund, after the 2013 race, I thought it might be interesting to take a little stroll back in time and look at who the previous RDs and presidents of the board have been.

Recall that Gordy ran the trail for the first time in 1974 in conjunction with the Tevis Cup.  In 75 and 76 only one runner ran with the horses each year and only Ken Cowman Shirk was able to get all the way to Auburn.  In 1977 16 runners competed in the first Western States Endurance Run, and even though they ran with the horses, the runners had separate aid stations (3) and their own medical director (Dr. Bob Lind).  Soon after the 1977 race, the independent Western States Endurance Run non-profit was founded and in 1978 the new board of trustees conducted the race a month before the horse race.  We’ ve had an independent race every year except 2008 when fires resulted in the only cancellation.

Here is the list of RDs as found in old race programs, etc.
[updated December 2020]

74-76 Wendell Robie (Tevis Ride)
77 Gordy Ansleigh
78-81 Mo Livermore & Shannon Weil
82-83 Mo Livermore
84 Bob Suter & Shannon Weil
85 Jerry Holm, Curt Sproul, Bob Suter
86-94 Helen and Norm Klein
95-99 Norm Klein
00-12 Greg Soderlund
13-present Craig Thornley

And here are the presidents of the board of trustees.

WSER Presidents
78-86 Curt Sproul
87-91 Doug Latimer
92-96 Tony Rossmann
97-00 Charles Savage
01-05 John Medinger
06-10 Tim Twietmeyer
11-15 John Trent
16-19 John Medinger
20-present Diana Fitzpatrick

If you want to be the next RD you need to get your resume and letters in by December 1 of this year.

More history can be found at the WS site or the The History Of Western States by Norm Klein, originally written for Marathon and Beyond.  Or you can read my Ten Best WS Races post for a more competitive angle.


    • It’s a paid gig, but interesting it isn’t posted on their search page. Guess if you are after money you probably aren’t right for the job. Greg used to RD several other big races (AR 50M, WTC 50K) while also being WS RD so probably not considered full-time.

  1. Craig,

    I think if anyone epitomizes WS100 it is you! You have such enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of the race which you share freely with others.

    I wish you the best of luck. I also hope if (when!) You become RD that you put in your mission statement to rid the course of rattlesnakes because I am getting tired of being mocked for my snakeproof gaiter wearing running:-)

    • Tammy, you might not want to know that Meghan and I saw a rattlesnake last weekend while running in Southern Oregon. I was in front and it started rattling as I went by so I yelled at Meghan. We stopped on either side of it as it sat all coiled up and pissed off just above the trail. Meghan was so mesmerized by it that she stood and watched it for a good five minutes before getting by it. Now, if she had your little pink shin guard/gaiters she could have cruised right on by fearlessly.

      • Craig,

        Yikes!! I am glad to hear both of you are safe. I did not realize they had rattlers in Southern Oregon. Actually I did not realize they had rattlers in Oregon at all although I guess when I was in Bend to get my husband back from his mountaineering accident the terrain did look like a snake could enjoy it. Well, now that I have snake proof gaiters I can run anywhere…well anywhere that the poisonous snakes do not live in tree’s!

  2. It seems to me that in the midst of all this talk about changes in the sport this particular situation is perhaps more relevant than any other. This is the first time I can recall that a race has actually posted a job for an Executive Director and defined the position in such a thorough and thoughtful way. As a non-profit director myself I applaud the WSER Board for being so transparent (and transcendent) in their process. For a group that has been much maligned over the years for their seeming lack of transparency this is an excellent step.

    Now, where do I vote for the next RD and what do I need to do to get on the Board so I can be his boss:)

  3. I can only imagine how tough it would be to RD an event with all the logistics of Western States. Incredibly rewarding though. As far as I can tell, Greg and his team have done a top notch job. I have no doubt you’d be a great choice to follow in his footsteps (and the many other footsteps that came before – pun intended, yes).

    Potential relocation to Sac, eh? (Might I suggest Tahoe area instead?) Big deal stuff. Good luck!!

    • Yes, Gretchen, Greg has set the bar high. The details and logistics are amazing and I’m sure we don’t know all of them. Greg told me not long ago that what struck him when he took the job is how important this race is to so many people. He didn’t want to let them down. As an 8-time finisher under his reign I can say those eight days have been some of the most memorable in my life. Thanks, Greg!

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