Western States Endurance Run

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Western States Endurance Run
Western States Endurance Run logo patch
DateLast weekend of June
LocationOlympic Valley, California
Auburn, California
Event typeUltramarathon trail run
Distance100.2 miles (161 km)
Course recordsMen: 14:09:28 (2019)
Jim Walmsley
Women: 15:29:34 (2023)
Courtney Dauwalter
Official sitewww.wser.org
Runners, WS 2010.
The finish line to the Western States 100 at Placer High School

The Western States Endurance Run, known commonly as the Western States 100 or Western States, is a 100.2-mile (161 km) ultramarathon that takes place on California's Sierra Nevada Mountains trails each year on the last full weekend of June. Western States is the oldest and one of the most competitive ultramarathons in the United States, and is administered by the nonprofit Western States Endurance Run Foundation.

The Western States 100 is one of the five 100-mile races that comprise the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, which also includes the Old Dominion 100 in Virginia, the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run in Utah, and the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado. One of the more prestigious ultramarathons in the world, it is a qualifier for the UTMB World Series, although the UTMB organization has a major competing race in the same area with a similar course, called "Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB".


The course was first attempted on foot by twenty soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas during the 1972 Tevis Cup horse ride event. Because the Tevis Cup imposed a 24-hour time limit, the soldiers started one day before the horses. Seven completed the 100.2 miles, and it was subsequently reported as the first "Auburn Endurance March".[1] In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh became the first to complete the course in under 24 hours, arriving in Auburn in twenty-three hours and forty-two minutes. In 1976, Ken “Cowman” Shirk became the second to complete the distance, though 30 minutes over the 24-hour mark.

Sixteen runners signed up for the first official Western States Endurance Run in 1977, held in conjunction with the Tevis Cup. Runners were provided with water but were otherwise required to bring their own supplies. Thirteen of the 16 dropped out or were pulled by the 50-mile mark. Of the three remaining runners, only Andy Gonzales finished in the 24-hour time limit set for the horses. The other two, Peter Mattei and Ralph Paffenbarger, finished in 28 hours and 36 minutes (unofficially). Their finishing times led to the establishment of the first sub-30-hour awards.[2] Later that year, the Western States Trail Foundation established the race's first Board of Directors.

The following year, 1978, the Western States Endurance Run was made independent of the Tevis Cup and took place in June, a month earlier than the horse ride. There were 21 aid stations and six medical checks. Sixty-three runners competed, 30 runners finished, and Pat Smythe became the first woman finisher, finishing with a time of 29 hours and 34 minutes.[3]

By 1980, the number of starting runners had increased to 250 people from 3 countries and 21 states. A lottery system for race entry was implemented in 1981.

In 1984, the Granite Chief Wilderness was created under the provisions of the 1964 Wilderness Act, and about four miles (6 km) of the Western States trail was within the new boundaries. The wilderness designation prevented the Forest Service from permitting organized events in the area. In 1988, however, the Endurance Run (and the original Trail Ride) was given Congressional permission to continue, but with the number of runners limited to 369, the size of the 1984 field.

In 1985, the Western States Endurance Run course was officially measured to an accuracy of one-tenth of a mile, resulting in a designated distance of 100.2 miles.

In 2017, a wait list was implemented with replacement runners selected from the list to ensure that the 369 allowable starting spots were completely filled.

Race cancellations[edit]

In 2008, the race was canceled due to bad air quality and smoke from an unprecedented number of wildfires.[4]

In 2020, the race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[5]


The Western States Endurance Run has followed the same course since 1986, traversing a section of the Western States Trail, a designated National Recreational Trail that stretches from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sacramento, California. Much of the course is accessible only by foot, horse, or helicopter.

The race starts at the base of the Palisades Tahoe ski resort in the west end of the Olympic Valley in California and traverses the Foresthill Divide and through Foresthill. The course then crosses the American River Canyon, ascends through Cool, and finishes at the Placer High School track in Auburn, California.

The terrain is quite rugged, often featuring snow on the passes.[6] Temperatures during the run can range from 20 to more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Elevation profile[edit]

Runners ascend a cumulative total of 18,090 feet (5500 m) and descend a total of 22,970 feet (7000 m) on mountain trails before reaching the finish.[7]

Starting at 6,200 feet on the Olympic Valley floor, runners immediately ascend to Emigrant Pass at 8,750 feet, gaining 2,550 feet in elevation over the first 4.5 miles. The trail then descends to around 7,000 feet at the 10-mile mark. Approximately twenty miles in, runners continue down into Duncan Canyon before making a 1,500 foot ascent back up towards Robinson Flat.

Between miles 30 and 45, the trail drops to elevation 3,000 feet, at which point runners make the ascent to "Devil's Thumb". From this landmark, runners descend 2,000 feet to cross El Dorado Creek, up 1,500 feet to Michigan Bluff, and then down into the town of Foresthill.

At this point, runners pass through the "Cal 1", "Cal 2", and "Cal 3" descents to arrive at the Rocky Chucky river crossing. Once across the American River, just over 20 miles remain. The next climb is through the town of Cool, gaining around 750 feet before sloping downward again.

Trail features[edit]

At 78 miles, runners must ford the American River near the Rucky Chucky crossing. To cross, runners wade with the assistance of a guide rope stretched from bank to bank. However, in high water years, runners are conveyed across the canyon in river rafts.


Because of the length, the race commences at 5 a.m. and continues through the day and into the night.

Aid stations[edit]

There are twenty aid stations, including 10 major medical checkpoints.

Awards and timed milestones[edit]

All entrants that complete the race in less than 30 hours and within race regulations are recognized as official finishers and receive a finisher's medallion.

First place finishers[edit]

The top male finisher and the top female finisher are each awarded with the Western States Cougar Trophy. Provided they finish in under 24 hours, they are also declared the winners of the Wendell Robie Cup, a "perpetual" trophy with the names of all winners engraved.

Belt buckles[edit]

Runners who complete the Western States Endurance Run in less than 24 hours are awarded a hand-made silver belt buckle. Runners who complete the Western States Endurance Run in a time between 24 hours and 30 hours are awarded a hand-made bronze belt buckle.

Milestone belt buckles are also awarded to individuals with 10, 20, and 25 finishes in under 24 hours (the "10 Day", "20 Day", and "25 Day" belt buckles). 1000 Mile and 2500 Mile belt buckles are awarded to those with 10 and 25 official finishes.

Age group awards[edit]

Age group awards are given to the top three men and women in the categories: 39 and under; 40-49; 50-59; 60-69; and 70 and over.

Other awards[edit]

The oldest male and female finishers receive awards.

Notable finishers[edit]

Tim Twietmeyer, from California, holds the record for race completions, having completed the race a record 25 times, all in under 24 hours. He has won the race five times and completed his 25th finish in 2006. His son, Austin Twietmeyer, has also completed the race, finishing in just under 30 hours in 2021.[8]

Scott Jurek, from Minnesota, holds the record for consecutive victories. His 2005 victory was his seventh consecutive win.

Ann Trason holds the record for most women's victories, having won the race fourteen times.[9] Her women's course record of 17:37:51, set in 1994, stood for eighteen years before being surpassed in 2012 by Ellie Greenwood, who recorded a time of 16:47:19.

Courtney Dauwalter holds the open female course record with a time of 15:29:33, set in 2023 and breaking Ellie Greenwood's record set in 2012.

Jim Walmsley, from Arizona, holds the open male course record with a time of 14:09:28, set in 2019.

In 2009, Amy Palmiero-Winters, a transtibial amputee, became the first amputee to complete the race, finishing in 27:43:10.

In 2016, Andrew Miller, 20, became the youngest winner ever after Jim Walmsley, the forecasted winner, took a wrong turn approaching the north fork of the American River near mile 95.

Men's Winners[10]

Year Winner Time Age Country
2023 Tom Evans 14:40:22 31  United Kingdom
2022 Adam Peterman 15:13:48 26  United States
2021 Jim Walmsley 14:46:01 31  United States
2020 Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2019 Jim Walmsley 14:09:28 29  United States
2018 Jim Walmsley 14:30:04 28  United States
2017 Ryan Sandes 16:19:38 35  South Africa
2016 Andrew Miller 15:39:36 20  United States
2015 Rob Krar 14:48:59 38  Canada
2014 Rob Krar 14:53:22 37  Canada
2013 Timothy Olson 15:17:27 29  United States
2012 Timothy Olson 14:46:44 28  United States
2011 Kilian Jornet 15:34:24 23  Spain
2010 Geoff Roes 15:07:04 34  United States
2009 Hal Koerner 16:24:55 33  United States
2008 Cancelled due to poor air quality caused by 2008 California wildfires
2007 Hal Koerner 16:12:16 31  United States
2006 Graham Cooper 18:17:28 36  United States
2005 Scott Jurek 16:40:45 31  United States
2004 Scott Jurek 15:36:27 30  United States
2003 Scott Jurek 16:01:18 29  United States
2002 Scott Jurek 16:19:10 28  United States
2001 Scott Jurek 16:38:30 27  United States
2000 Scott Jurek 17:17:24 26  United States
1999 Scott Jurek 17:34:22 25  United States
1998 Tim Twietmeyer 17:51:20 39  United States
1997 Mike Morton 15:40:41 25  United States
1996 Tim Twietmeyer 17:42:06 37  United States
1995 Tim Twietmeyer 18:34:58 36  United States
1994 Tim Twietmeyer 16:51:01 35  United States
1993 Tom Johnson 17:08:34 34  United States
1992 Tim Twietmeyer 16:54:16 33  United States
1991 Tom Johnson 15:54:05 32  United States
1990 Tom Johnson 16:38:52 31  United States
1989 Mark Brotherton 16:53:39 32  United States
1988 Brian Purcell 16:24:00 32  United States
1987 Herb Tanzer 17:41:06 35  United States
1986 Chuck Jones 16:37:47 27  United States
1985 Jim King 16:02:44 28  United States
1984 Jim King 14:54:00 27  United States
1983 Jim Howard 16:07:00 29  United States
1982 Jim King 16:17:00 25  United States
1981 Jim Howard 16:02:37 27  United States
1980 Mike Catlin 18:35:42 28  United States
1979 Mike Catlin 16:11:56 27  United States
1978 Andy Gonzalez 18:50:00 23  United States
1977 Andy Gonzalez 22:57:00 22  United States
1976 Ken Shirk 24:30:00 23  United States
1974 Gordy Ainsleigh 23:42:20 26  United States

Women's Winners[10]

Year Winner Time Age Country
2023 Courtney Dauwalter 15:29:34 38  United States
2022 Ruth Croft 17:21:30 33  New Zealand
2021 Beth Pascall 17:10:42 33  United Kingdom
2020 Cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2019 Clare Gallagher 17:23:24 27  United States
2018 Courtney Dauwalter 17:27:00 33  United States
2017 Cat Bradley 19:31:31 25  United States
2016 Kaci Lickteig 17:57:59 29  United States
2015 Magdalena Boulet 19:05:21 41  United States
2014 Stephanie Howe 18:01:42 30  United States
2013 Pam Smith 18:37:21 38  United States
2012 Ellie Greenwood 16:47:19 33  United Kingdom
2011 Ellie Greenwood 17:55:29 32  United Kingdom
2010 Tracy Garneau 19:01:55 41  Canada
2009 Anita Ortiz 18:24:17 45  United States
2008 Cancelled due to poor air quality caused by 2008 California wildfires
2007 Nikki Kimball 18:12:38 36  United States
2006 Nikki Kimball 19:26:51 35  United States
2005 Annette Bednosky 18:39:01 38  United States
2004 Nikki Kimball 18:43:25 33  United States
2003 Ann Trason 18:36:03 42  United States
2002 Ann Trason 18:16:26 41  United States
2001 Ann Trason 18:33:34 40  United States
2000 Ann Trason 19:44:42 39  United States
1999 Suzanne Brana 21:23:39 41  United States
1998 Ann Trason 18:46:16 37  United States
1997 Ann Trason 19:19:49 36  United States
1996 Ann Trason 18:57:36 35  United States
1995 Ann Trason 18:40:01 34  United States
1994 Ann Trason 17:37:51 33  United States
1993 Ann Trason 19:05:22 32  United States
1992 Ann Trason 18:14:48 31  United States
1991 Ann Trason 18:29:37 30  United States
1990 Ann Trason 18:33:02 29  United States
1989 Ann Trason 18:47:46 28  United States
1988 Kathy D'Onofrio-Wood 18:52:40 23  United States
1987 Mary Hammes 21:23:37 27  United States
1986 Kathy D'Onofrio-Wood 20:58:16 21  United States
1985 Terri Gerber 20:30:03 36  United States
1984 Judy Milkie-West 20:04:00 34  United States
1983 Bjorg Austrheim-Smith 19:11:00 40  United States
1982 Bjorg Austrheim-Smith 18:23:00 39  United States
1981 Bjorg Austrheim-Smith 18:46:00 38  United States
1980 Sally Edwards 22:13:44 32  United States
1979 Skip Swannack 21:56:27 37  United States
1978 Pat Smythe 29:34:00 35  United States


  1. ^ "Seven Finish Trail Ride". Reno-Gazette Journal. August 3, 1972.
  2. ^ Crockett, Davy. "The 1977 Western States 100". Ultrarunning History. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  3. ^ Crockett, Davy. "The 1978 Western States 100". Ultrarunning History.
  4. ^ Associated Press (2008-06-28). "Wildfires' smoke, ash chokes Northern Californians". CNN. Retrieved 2008-07-07. [dead link]
  5. ^ "2020 WSER and Training Runs Cancelled – Western States Endurance Run". www.wser.org. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  6. ^ "Weather – Western States Endurance Run". www.wser.org. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ Western States 100 Record Holders
  10. ^ a b Western States 100 Results 1974-present

External links[edit]