I am a huge fan of ultrarunning, a student of the sport. There's a lot to like, no really. While some of my friends may think this crazy, I enjoy it all. The training, community, commitment, but mostly it's the stories I hear. Ultrarunning attracts a lot of different people. I've met lawyers, recovering addicts, farmers, and accountants who test themselves to the limit on a regular basis. Last weekend, one of the greatest stories ever, came from the sport’s most prestigious race, the Western States Endurance Run—or simply, Western States. A 100-mile run from Squaw Valley, CA, to Auburn, CA. The race is the Superbowl of ultrarunning and is the oldest 100 miler in the world. If you are wondering why anyone would run 100 miles through the Sierra Canyons in 100 degrees F or how this race ever came to being, let me explain. In 1974, a guy named Gordy Ainsleigh turned up at the Tevis Cup—a horse race—with a lame steed. Undeterred, Gordy decided he would complete the 100 miles on foot, and thus the Western States 100 was born.
These days it draws the attention of elite ultrarunners with the top ten running it in under twenty hours. Rob Krar, this year’s winner, ran it in 14:48—unbelievable! The ladies winner, Magdalena Boulet won in 19:05. However, these feats, as amazing as they are, did not draw the most attention. As the elites all finished on Saturday evening, having started at 5 am that same day, it was a seventy year-old woman named Gunhild Swanson who stole the show on Sunday morning.
Western States has a cut-off time of 30 hours. If you don't make it under the banner at the stadium where it finishes, you are not counted as an official finisher. Swanson went through the last checkpoint at mile 99 with 16 minutes left on the clock. Arriving at Placer High stadium, Swanson made it with 6 seconds to spare! The reaction from the crowd says it all. [bctt tweet="The next time you think you've reached the limit, think again."]