Home > Trail Running

The lucky Canucks who got into Western States for 2020

Here are the Canadians going to the race they call the Super Bowl of ultrarunning

Eleven Canadians had their ultratrail dream come true last week when their numbers came up in the  2020 Western States Endurance Run lottery, held at Placer High School in Auburn, California near the finish line of the fabled 100-miler.

RELATED: Will you get into Western States or Hardrock?

Western States 2019 start line. Photo: Katie Mills

The Western States and Hardrock lotteries are famously nerve-wracking for those hoping to get in, since demand is so much higher than the number of spots available. Because Hardrock was cancelled this year due to a very late spring and unstable snow conditions on the course, the 2019 lottery results will stand, and there will be no lottery for 2020.

Applicants must qualify by finishing a race of at least 100K in distance within the last year. For each consecutive year that they apply and are not selected, applicants get additional tickets for the next year’s lottery following a specific formula designed to give more weight to those who have been trying the longest. (There are certain instances where applicants can receive a bye.) The number of applicants for the WSER lottery (6,666), held on December 7, was 14 per cent higher  than last year.

Course record-holders Ellie Greenwood and Jim Walmsley at the 2019 WSER. Photo: Ellie Greenwood

WSER fan Joe Uhan wrote a blog post on the day of this year’s lottery, outlining some problems with the sustainability of the WSER lottery from a mathematical point of view. Uhan explains how efforts to make it as fair as possible and reward those with the patience to wait several years to be selected have exactly the opposite effect.


But for the following Canadians who got in, none of that matters: Fanny Barrette and Jesse Hulley from Alberta, Riccardo Tortini, Marty Reed and Sarah Seads from B.C., Derek MulhallMatt LoweNorman Nadon, Karen Holland and Kelly Haston from Ontario and Vincent Gauthier from Quebec. There are no Canadians on the waitlist.

Tortini at Canyons 100K. Photo: Hilary Matheson

RELATED: Western States announces new president

Riccardo Tortini of Vancouver told us via email about his six-year journey to get into Western States, which started in 2014 when he entered his first 100-miler (the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama) solely in order to qualify for Western States.

“The obsession continued as I moved to Vancouver in 2015, with Fat Dog 120 my second qualifier, followed by Pine To Palm in 2016,” he says. “After qualifying for three years straight I knew it was “just” a matter of keep running qualifying races while having the necessary patience, and I switched my focus to events that could improve my specific knowledge of the course and the logistics. I entered Canyons 100K the last three years to become familiar with the middle part of WSER, from Swinging Bridge to Rucky Chucky, while racing as hard as I could, on top of pacing multiple times either all the way from Foresthill or the final section to Auburn.

“With that said, 2020 was actually the one year I could have given it a pass… With Tarawera 102K and Lake Sonoma 50 mile already on my calendar, it is going to be a heavy-hitting front half of the year, but as long as I can stay healthy and uninjured I am stoked to finally take part in the Super Bowl of ultrarunning.”