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California is on fire: Sean O’Brien 100K cancelled for 2019

Another Western States Golden Ticket series race cancelled due to devastating forest fires

On November 16, Keira Henninger made a hard decision. The race director of the Sean O’ Brien (SOB) 100K decided to cancel the event in Malibu, California scheduled for February 2, 2019. Henninger sent a heartfelt email to registered runners explaining the tragedy of the devastating wildfire burning over 34,000 hectares and destroying over 250 homes. The trails for the race in Malibu Creek State Park have been destroyed. 
Photo: Hollie Holden

Golden Ticket Races

Henninger created the SOB race as a Western States qualifier. The 100K is also one of the Altra Golden Ticket races. In a Golden Ticket race, the top two female and top two male finishers receive an automatic entry for Western States 100. Competitive runners from Canada, USA, and oversees seek out Golden Ticket races to run for a guaranteed entry. 
Photo: Hollie Holden

Not so Golden Fires

This is not the first time a devastating wildfire has impacted a Golden Ticket race. In 2017, Gorge Waterfalls 100K was cancelled due to forest fires. There used to be seven Golden Ticket races; now there are five.  

Vancouver runner Kim Magnus was in California to race The North Face 50 mile  when she received Henninger’s email. It was the second time that day Magnus had received news that a race she was planning to run was cancelled due to wildfires. Racing for a Golden Ticket has been “the ultimate goal” for Magnus. Even though SOB was her ideal race, she is hoping to register for another Golden Ticket race such as Black Canyon, Lake Sonoma, or the Georgia Death Race.

RELATED: The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship cancelled

Malibu trails. Photo: Kim Magnus

The Bigger Picture

“It’s hard to  be upset for my racing season as the devastation from these events is beyond anything I can imagine, and makes racing both trivial and so much more important at the same time.” explains Magnus. Trail runners have deep connections to the outdoors, and ongoing wildfires can be a reminder of how fragile the environment is. 


Race Options

Henninger is asking the trail running community to consider donating to agencies involved in the tragedy. She is working tirelessly to create alternative race options for runners. For example, there will be a 100K Western States qualifying race added to the Leona Divide race in April. SOB may return in two years. For now, racing for a Golden Ticket may be a bit more competitive. 

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