Pre-Race Activities at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run is an American Trail Running Association race member.

The 46th annual Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run will be held tomorrow, Saturday June 29, 2019. The race is one of the most iconic 100 mile trail races in the world, attracting the top American and international ultra runners each year. The course is a point-to-point from Squaw Valley, to Auburn, California that traverses the Sierra Nevada Mountains through snow fields, hot rugged canyons, a swift water river crossing and other challenging terrain. Apart from the race itself, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run offers many pre-race activities that add to the history and uniqueness of the event. Some of the top pre-race attractions for spectators, runners, and crew are detailed below.

Experience the Course With the Trek to Emigrant Pass:
Thursday before the race, everyone is invited to trek up to Emigrant Pass to experience the first part of the Western States course. Participants follow the first four miles of the course and finish at Emigrant Pass. Due to this year’s high winds and chilly conditions, participants instead finished at the High Camp at Squaw Valley, 8,200 feet. In the videos below, I interview several athletes during the hike:

The hike is then followed by a presentation from the race organizers honoring Western States legends who have passed away since last year’s event. To celebrate the beauty of the Squaw Valley area, race organizers lead a large group of attending runners in singing America the Beautiful.

Learn What it Takes to Crew a Western States Runner:
Thursday afternoon, race organizers give a detailed presentation for crews on how to properly “crew” your runner. In comparison to other ultras, crewing at Western States can be an incredible responsibility. Crews should expect to drive for at least several hours on race day to access aid stations, many of which are only accessible through remote mountain roads with speed limits of 20 miles per hour.

David Laney with his crew at Robinson Flat during the 2015 event. David will be bib #17 is this years race. You can follow David and all the runners during the race on

Some aid stations are off-limits to crew and pacers. Plan accordingly to make sure your runner has what they need along each section of the course. Crews should have detailed knowledge of pacing charts provided by the race organizers. This will help you know when to expect your runner at specific stations.

Attend Panels to Expand Your Knowledge on Relevant Topics in Trail and Ultrarunning:
The board of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run supports scientific research in trail and ultrarunning to help prevent injuries and improve performance. This year’s research panels included talks on “Bone stress injuries in ultrarunners,” presented by Emily Krause, MD, “Eye and visual issues affecting ultrarunners,” presented by Tracy Høeg, MD and “Common foot ailments in ultra-enduance events,” presented by John Vonhof and Tonya Olson.

Trail Sisters founder Gina Lucrezi leads a Q&A session with leading women in our sport.

In addition to the scientific panels, Trail Sisters, an international women’s trail running community and online journal, presented a Q&A with several of their members. The presentation offered race tips from Western States veterans, including 2016 Western States winner Kaci Lickteig. Ultrarunning magazine provides a live recording of the presentation that can be found on Facebook.

See the course on Google Streetview:
Can’t make it to Squaw Valley for Western States? Want to know what the course looks like? You can still see all 100 miles of this legendary course on Google Streetview. In June 2016, ATRA lead an expedition to capture panoramic Google Streetview photos on the trail using a 50 pound backpack mounted “trekker” imaging system. Over a dozen volunteers helped carry the trekker including former Western States winner Ann Trason and 2011 World Mountain Running Champion Max King.

Ann Trason and the team that carried the trekker from Foresthill to the River Crossing.

Below are links to some well known points along the route:

In the meantime, good luck to everyone racing Western States! See you in Auburn!

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