Didn’t Get Into Western States or Hardrock? Here Are 10 Alternatives
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This fall, 4,909 runners put into a lottery in hopes of getting one of 369 spots in the 2018 Western States 100, perhaps the most iconic 100-mile race in the United States. Similarly, this year saw 2,236 applicants for the Hardrock 100, a notoriously difficult high-altitude race in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains with just 145 available spots.
If you didn’t get into of these races (perhaps yet again), don’t fret. There are plenty of other races with a similar combination of terrain, camaraderie and spirit.
There are now more than 150 100-mile races held annually in North America alone. Here are 10 races that can cure even the most stubborn Hardrock or Western-States FOMO and get you motivated about training.
1. Eastern States
Held in northern Pennsylvania, this a 103-mile, single-loop course is run almost entirely on singletrack. The race follows Pine Creek, a scenic river that runs through the Appalachian Mountains. But with more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain, it isn’t for beginners—which makes it all the more rewarding.
When: August 11, 2018
Where: Waterville, PA
2. Wasatch 100
Looking for an altitude-heavy race with terrain that ranges from wet scree to dry valleys and everything in between? The Wasatch 100 offers 24,000 feet of elevation gain over a point-to-point course outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. The point-to-point offers plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, too: past participants have seen everything from elk, sheep and moose, to bears, mountain lions and rattlesnakes. Come prepared.
When: September 7, 2018
Where: Kaysville, Utah
3. Fat Dog 120
If you haven’t run a race across the border, you’re missing out. Held in British Columbia’s Cascade Mountains, the Fat Dog 120 is comparable to Hardrock in terms of difficulty, with more than 28,000 feet of elevation gain over its 120 miles. Running through three provincial parks and featuring everything from alpine meadows to technical singletrack to groomed trails circumnavigating aqua blue lakes, Fat Dog also brings the weather: expect dry heat, scattered lightning, torrential rain or crisp, nipping temperatures—sometimes all during the same race.
When: August 10, 2018
Where: Keremeos, B.C., Canada
4. Cruel Jewel 100
Expect almost 106 miles of either up or down—there’s maybe one part of this course that is flat, but even then your hip flexors will be firing off as you hop over myriads of logs. Cruel Jewel is not for the faint of heart: the event boasts over 33,000 feet of gain and your quads won’t let you forget the 33,000 feet of loss. Out of the 106 miles, 95 are run on singletrack through the Chattahoochee Forest. It’s an often-overlooked Southeastern event with plenty of shade.
When: May 18, 2018
Where: Blairsville, GA
5. Ouray 100
The Ouray 100 is a close neighbor to Hardrock, and now in its fifth year of existence. It may not cover Handies Peak or cap out above 14,000 feet, but it does deliver 8,812 feet more climbing. Nestled in the ever-captivating San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the race is considered a “graduate” level 100-miler—after all, the last 10.6 miles of the event pass through the finish area (don’t quit now!) to face a 4,844-foot climb before doubling back to the finish.
When: July 29, 2018
Where: Ouray, CO
6. San Diego 100
San Diego is a year-round running destination, which means by the time June rolls around, the temperatures are often in the 90s. In some years, this can mimic a hot Western States, making it a great alternative event. The San Diego 100 course covers five unique areas featuring pine forests, manzanita scrub, a scorching climb through the heat-trapping Noble Canyon and sweeping desert views as the route traces parts of the Pacific Crest Trail.
When: June 8, 2018
Where: Lake Cuyamaca, CA
7. Bear 100
How many 100-milers take you from one state to the next? The Bear 100 begins in Logan, Utah and ends 100 miles later in Fish Haven, Idaho, all while taking advantage of the changing fall scenery. Expect to see bright red maples and shockingly yellow aspens while climbing more than 22,000 feet. For those who suffer in high-altitude races, the Bear tops out at 9,000 feet, making it a bit more manageable. Bonus points for the overall male and female awards, which feature an engraved picture of Old Ephraim, a famous Grizzly bear who reportedly once roamed the wilderness areas that runners pass through.
When: September 28, 2018
Where: Logan, UT
8. Plain 100
Tired of aid stations? Bored with just finishing? Looking for something soul-numbingly hard? Try the Plain 100. In its first eight years, the event had zero finishers. Even today the race has less than a 50-percent finishing rate. What makes Plain so tough? No course markings; no aid stations; two humongous, remote, gorgeous and difficult 50-mile loops with a single re-supply point between. Never mind the elevation gain (and the endless hours alone on the trail.) You know you’re in the Plain 100 when, as race participant Martin Miller explained, “you quit at mile 70, but have to drag yourself to the finish line to find anyone who cares.” This event is just plain tough.
When: September 15, 2018
Where: Leavenworth, WA
9. Cascade Crest 100
The 20th edition of the Cascade Crest 100 (affectionately called CCC) will run the regular route despite 2017’s reroute due to nearby wildfires. The trail follows the Pacific Crest Trail for the majority of the beginning miles before dropping down via a steep, roped section. From here runners will work their way through a 2.3 miles-long tunnel before emerging on the latter half of the course. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier. Expect to hit “The Trail from Hell,” which is more bushwhacking than running. The crowning point of the race is a series of steep climbs and descents called the Cardiac Needles, which, at 80-something miles into the race, are no joke. Be sure to pause along the way to look up and out; the views alone make this one worth running.
When: August 25, 2018
Where: Easton, WA
10. Mogollon Monster
The Mogollon Monster traverses one of the most heinous routes in all of Arizona, the technical, undulating Highline Trail, (which also happens to be home to the notoriously difficult Zane Grey 50.) At first glance, the event’s 22,000 feet of climbing might seem average amongst other 100-milers on this list, but know that within those 100 miles, you’ll be hard pressed to find more than 100 feet of smooth trail. The region is remote, rugged and covered in more loose rocks and fallen trees than you could ever dream up.
When: September 15, 2018
Where: Pine, AZ