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19 Things to Read About Western States 2016

If you’re nerding out about the 2016 edition, here’s some background reading on the Western States 100.

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If you’re following/nerding out about today’s race, here’s some background reading on the Western States 100 (anytime you’re ready for a break from refreshing #ws100 on Twitter.)

This list includes recent coverage of this year’s competition and other Western States-related goings-on, as well as a few oldie-but-goodie reads about the storied race’s history and culture. Enjoy!

This Year’s Race

Western States is always competitive, but this could be one of its most exciting years yet. Why? Here’s our quick rundown of the contenders in the women’s and men’s races.

One of the women to watch is Kaci Lickteig, defending runner-up (and leading the race as of this writing, at mile 38). Here’s a New York Times profile of her from last summer.

Over in the men’s race, Sage Canaday, an ace at everything up to 100K thus far, will be looking for his first 100-mile finish. Here are his thoughts on preparing for the race.

Meanwhile, Jim Walmsley has come practically out of nowhere to become the sport’s hottest new star. Ultrarunning magazine has this intriguing and slightly worrisome read about his Icarus-style approach to Western States training.

Meanwhile, fellow podium contender David Laney mostly trains by driving around in his van/home and runs rad mountain trails.

(Need a break from reading? Here are six great videos about Western States.)

Moving away from the front of the pack, legendary race founder Gordy Ainsleigh will be aiming for his 24th Western States finish (after some controversy over whether the requirement that he run a qualifier race first was fair).

Last year, Gunhild Swanson, then 70, finished the race with six seconds to spare, becoming the oldest female finisher in the race’s history and an instant internet sensation. She’ll be back this year, hoping for a less nail-biting finish.

The two most famous athletes who will be on the course, meanwhile, aren’t famous for running. Former Major League Baseball player Eric Byrne, who has gotten into triathlons and trail races post-retirement, will be paced the final 22 miles by Lance Armstrong.

(Lance won’t ever be allowed to compete in the race, according to a newly amended Western States rule that bars “[a]ny athlete who has been determined to have violated anti-doping rules or policies.” Competitor gives some context on the rule change here.)

In other news, a group has been mapping the Western States Trail with Google Trekker. The goal is Google Streetview-like footage of the entire trail, available to armchair ultrarunners everywhere. Here’s more on the project.

On a tragic note, the ultrarunning community lost two hugely influential figures in Western States history this year: Dr. Bob Lind, the race’s former medical director, and Greg Soderlund, the race director from 2000 to 2013.

Western Lore

A short profile of the man who started it all, Gordy Ainsleigh …

… and the story of how Ainsleigh’s incredible feat turned into a race that has lasted four decades, as told by one of the race’s founders.

It may be hard to believe, but once upon a time, Scott Jurek was an “up-and-comer” and a “relative infant in the sport.” At least that’s what we wrote in early 2002, when he had only won a paltry three Western States titles. (He went on to win four more.)

In 2010, Western States was an epic showdown between four of the best 100-mile runners in the world: Anton Krupicka, Kilian Jornet, Hal Koerner and eventual winner Geoff Roes. Here’s how it went down.

The Experience

What it feels like to get into Western States, one of ultrarunning’s most sought-after race entries, as told by contributing editor Sarah Lavender Smith (who’s running the race this very moment).

And, once you get in, what it feels like to actually run the thing (as a frontrunner, no less).

OK, now you can go back to iRunFar’s Twitter feed.