The Western States® 100 Mile Endurance Race is the oldest 100 mile trail race in the world. Starting in Squaw Valley, California, near the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and ending 100.2 miles later in Auburn, California, Western States, in the decades since its inception in 1974, it has come to represent one of the most important stress tests in the world.
Following the historic Western States Trail, runners climb more than 18,000 feet and descend almost 23,000 feet before reaching the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn. In the miles between Squaw Valley and Auburn, joggers experience the majestic beauty of the Emigrant Pass and Granite Chief Wilderness highlands, the melting pot of canyons in the California gold region, a memorable crossroads of the icy waters of the main stem from the middle fork of the American River, and, in later stages, the historic reddish brown trails that led gold diggers and sponsored pilgrims to the cozy arms of Auburn.
For more than four decades, Western States has hosted some of the sport's most poignant and legendary competitions, and has stimulated the spirit ability of all runners, of all abilities, and from all walks of life, from all the world.
With over 1,500 dedicated volunteers, it offers the oldest and most treasured possession of the sport (a finisher bronze belt buckle under 30 hours) or a 24-hour final silver belt buckle (and one of 100 miles) and has the richest and most compelling history of 100 miles of racing. Western states remains one of the undisputed crown jewels of human resistance.
Starting in the Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the trail ascends from the valley floor (elevation 6,200 ft) to the Paso de Emigrantes (elevation 8,750 ft), a 2,550 vertical rise in the early 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the 1850s gold and silver miners, runners travel west, climb another 15,540 feet and descend 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn, a small town in the heart of the California's historic golden country. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory. People unfamiliar with the area should be careful when planning training careers, especially in the high country. Before you leave, let someone know where you will run and when you will return.
Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the trail, the Western States Endurance Race differs substantially from other organized races. Proper physical and mental preparation is of utmost importance to every runner, as the high mountains and deep canyons, while beautiful, are unforgiving in their defiance and unforgiving to the ill-prepared.
- Course Route : The Race will follow the same basic course used since 1986, unless snow conditions require a change of route.
- Familiarity : knowledge of the trail offers physical and mental advantages during the Race. Participants must make a reasonable effort to cover most of the route before Execution Day. Particular attention should be paid to those sections you expect to run in the dark, when your mental and physical energy is lagging.
- After dark : AS ALMOST THE HALF OF THE ROAD CAN BE TRAVELED AT NIGHT, EACH RUNNER MUST BRING TWO LED FLASHLIGHTS. If your lights fail, wait for another runner with a light. Don't try to find your way in the dark. If you are the last runner, wait for the Search and Rescue sweep teams. Plan to pick up a flashlight at Foresthill, no matter what time you get to that point. If you're a 28-30 hour runner, plan to pick up a flashlight at Michigan Bluff.
- Weather : Since temperatures during the Race can range from 20 degrees to over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, participants must be fully prepared for both extremes. Weather conditions are unpredictable and can change rapidly.
- River Crossing : At 78 miles, runners must ford the American River near the Rucky Chucky Crossing. The ford is dangerous and MUST NOT BE TRIED IN TRAINING EXECUTIONS. On Race Day, a guide rope will stretch across the river, with staff available for assistance. River rafts are used in high water years.
- Desert : The remoteness of the trail can lead to disaster for anyone who has no experience in the "virgin forests". For your own well-being and survival, we recommend that you do not attempt to run alone without letting someone know exactly where you are going AND what time you will return. The trail marks will not be completed until a few days before the Race. We highly recommend that people who are unfamiliar with the area get together with a “native guide”. Bring plenty of fluids, a water filtration pump, and food supplies. There are dry stretches of more than 8 miles during the Race and 16 or more miles during the training races.
- Marks paths: the path marks consist of a pink ribbon tied to the branches topographer, signs "WS TRAIL" nailed to trees, and arrows and signs. ("Pioneer Express Trail" markers are located along parts of the trail. They are not referred to as Run markers.) Also, reflectors will be placed along the last 38 miles of the trail during dark hours. Run Management does its best to provide a properly marked trail, but runners need to remain vigilant while traveling. Occasionally, people not associated with the event have modified or removed course markings, or Execution management may not place the signage in a critical turn on Execution day due to unusual circumstances. A working knowledge of the trail, particularly those miles that will be covered in darkness, will be of infinite benefit to the runner attempting the Western States Endurance Race.
- Drops : If you have to leave the Race at a point where your crew is unavailable, we will make every reasonable effort to get to the end or to the nearest main checkpoint that is still operational, especially if you need to. of medical attention. In non-emergency situations, you may have to wait several hours before being evacuated. Runners who must leave the Race BEFORE the Foresthill aid station will be taken to Foresthill. Runners who must fall AFTER Foresthill will be taken to the finish line. Our main responsibility is to carry out a Race, not to execute a transport service for those who do not finish; so please be patient. Aid stations will close when leg sweeps or tow riders arrive.
- Road etiquette : Please be courteous to hikers, other runners, and riders. Collisions on these narrow trails can be disastrous. If you want to pass another runner, ask for "trail to the right" or "trail to the left" before attempting to pass. Slower runners must yield the trail to runners who wish to pass. Horses can be frightened by the sudden appearance of a runner, with serious consequences for the rider. Stop and walk off the trail to allow the approaching horses to pass. Runners must never pass a horse behind without first notifying the rider.
- Volunteers : Approximately 1,500 dedicated volunteers help with each Endurance Run in the Western States. They are truly the life blood of The Run and will do their best to make your day a success. Many spend more hours on the trail than the runners themselves. Please be courteous and make a point to thank them. Without the volunteers, there would be no 100 western states.