There have been so many creative virtual races and challenges created in the last few months, and they have kept runners around the world busy while they wait for in-person events to resume. One of these races is the California Coast 500, a virtual event in which participants can run 100, 250, 400 or 500 miles. Participants running the the 500-miler have a fun wrinkle added to their event: the majority of racers started on June 8, but as of Monday, they’re being chased by elite ultramarathoners Mike Wardian, Magda Boulet and Tim Tollefson. With a head start of more than a month, it’s now a race to see who can stay ahead of this three-runner chase pack.
The race setup
The California Coast 500 is a Hoka One One event, and the three chasers are Hoka athletes. The virtual route follows the coast of California, and the imaginary starting and finishing points are the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The event officially began on June 8, although runners can sign up at any point throughout the three-month challenge, which lasts until September 7. Of course, anyone signing up now will have to try to chase down Wardian, Boulet and Tollefson rather than be chased by them.
Meet the chase pack
Wardian is one of the most well-known ultrarunners in the U.S. He has broken multiple world records, won races around the world and he took the win at the inaugural Quarantine Backyard Ultra — another unique virtual event — back in April. He’s also coming off a successful FKT attempt of a 209K run across the state of Delaware.
Boulet represented the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics in the marathon, but she’s taken to the trails in more recent years. She has won many ultramarathons, including the Western States 100 in 2015 (she placed second in 2017). Her resume also includes a podium finish at the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc‘s CCC race in 2015, a top-five finish at the UTMB in 2016 and a top-20 finish in 2017. She managed to race once in 2020 before the pandemic, an event which she won.
Tollefson, another big name in the American ultrarunning scene, rounds out the impressive chase pack in the California Coast 500. He won the 2020 USATF 50-mile trail championships in March before COVID-19 put all racing on hold. Like Boulet, he ran to a second-place finish at the CCC in 2015, and in the following years he also jumped up to the UTMB’s longest race, finishing in third in both 2016 and 2017.
With this speedy pack of elites chasing the 500-mile racers, it will be interesting to see how many runners they can catch before the finish line.