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It’s Western States 100 weekend: the low-down on the high-up

Here's what you need to know about the most exciting ultra this summer

The countdown is officially on: three days left until the world’s oldest 100-mile race begins. Western States 100-mile Endurance Run (WSER) is on many ultrarunners’ bucket lists, and it’s one of the most highly anticipated endurance events of the year.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” says California-based coach and author David Roche. “It throws every athlete into the fire. Those that emerge can conquer the world.” With close to 5,500 metres in elevation gain and some very hot weather predicted (par for the course for WSER), this race challenges everyone who gets to tackle it.

This year’s event, running from June 25-26, promises no shortage of excitement.

WSER’s press release calls this year’s race “a changing of the guard” situation, with last year’s winners (three-time champ Jim Walmsley and Beth Pascall) not returning, and the top spots in the race up for grabs. Returning athletes and renowned newbies alike are sure to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

Who to watch

Tim Tollefson: With a fifth place finish last year, Tollefson, from Mammoth Lakes, Cali., will be looking to best his previous time of 16:55:49. Tollefson, a physiotherapist and pro-athlete for HOKA, is also the recent founder of Mammoth Lakes Trail Fest.

Jared Hazen: While he took a DNF last year at WSER, Flagstaff, Ariz. pro-runner Hazen has been on the podium twice and is surely hoping for a win this year. Hazen was arguably the male favourite last year, after running an incredibly fast race in 2019 and boasting the second-fastest-ever time on the course at 14:26:46. Walmsley’s course record seems to be within reach for Hazen, as it stands at 14:09:28.

Drew Holmen: After taking third in 2021, Holmen, who lives in Boulder, Colo., says his race strategy this year is body temperature regulation. No small feat with the traditionally scorching temperatures at WSER, but the 14,500 kgs of ice that WSER has ordered may help.

Photo: Ruth Plourde

The women’s race

Ruth Croft: New Zealand native Croft placed a remarkable second last year in her first-ever 100-mile race. Croft ran 17:33:48 and took a ninth place overall.

Lucy Bartholomew: Australian fan favourite Bartholomew is back. Bartholomew ran a breakout performance in 2018 with a third-place finish at age 22. “So happy to hug the U.S. family again and bring my best effort and attitude,” Bartholomew posted on Instagram.

Photo: Lucy Bartholomew/Instagram

Camille Herron: Possibly the female name fans are most familiar with, Herron, from Warr Acres, Okla., broke her own 100-mile record in February, running 12:41:11 at the JackPot Ultras in Nevada. She had DNF’d Western States twice before last year, where she struggled with niggling injuries and GI distress and ended up finishing in 27:28:32.

Photo: Instagram/runcamille

Canadians to watch

Ailsa MacDonald of St. Albert, Alta., received an automatic entry to this year’s race, thanks to her 13th-place finish at the 2019 Western States and first-place finish at the 2020 Tarawera 100 Mile. She’s an astoundingly accomplished ultratrail athlete as well as a world-ranked Ironman triathlete. MacDonald consistently places at or near the top of every race she enters, with some outright wins along the way, including her first 100-mile race at Sinister 7 in 2017.

Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton is one of 34 Canadians heading to WSER this weekend. Olympic marathoner turned ultrarunner Coolsaet is a top-ranked Canadian athlete, and will be one to follow in his first WSER performance. Coolsaet won his first ultramarathon ever, the Quebec Mega Trail 110K, last summer, despite running an extra 10K due to a wrong turn.

Photo: Andre Morgan

How to watch

Beginning at 8:00 a.m.E.T., a livestream of the athletes as they progress through the race will be available at Ultralive.net.

This will be the second year that WSER is streaming live on Youtube.