Western States is the oldest 100 mile race in the world. It has similar prestige in the ultra running world to the Boston Marathon, however unlike Boston it is open to anyone who can complete a qualifying race regardless of time. And there are many qualifying races that are less than 100 miles in distance. Combine this with the fact that WS100 is limited by their race permit to about 400 runners and you have a situation where the demand to run the race vastly outstrips open slots. To manage this, the race directors have set up a lottery where your chances of winning entry increase based on the number of years you enter yet don’t make it in. In recent years, first year entrants have had about a 5% chance of getting in.
Now my goal is to run Western States someday and I had been planning for this to be the year where I started trying to get in. My first 100 miler last year (Oil Creek) was a qualifier, however I didn’t think I would be ready to run The Big One so soon after moving up to the distance so I decided to put it off a year. Eastern States was my qualifier this year, however once again I’m thinking that I’m not quite ready. It’s not that I don’t think I can finish the race. ES100 and Cloudsplitter are both more challenging races. It’s just that I want to run my best when I finally get the opportunity. And by that, I mean I want to run sub-24hours. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever reach that point, but it’s unlikely to be next year. And knowing my luck, I’d get selected with less than 5% odds in the lottery if I go in hoping for my name not to be drawn.
So I’m going to wait another year before starting the process. I’m planning on running 2 WS100 qualifiers next year (by chance, not because I’m trying to increase my odds of qualifying) so there is a good chance I’ll be able to register for the lottery in 2017. Add into the mix that this whole 100 miler thing is a multi-decade endeavor for me and I’m sure I’ll have several opportunities to run the race. I may only have 5-6 years left to run fast enough to go under 24 hours, but I’m fine if it never happens.
The other thing drawing me away from entering the lottery is that my alternative race is Old Dominion. OD100 is the second oldest 100 miler, however it never lost its low key, backyard vibe. Western States is 400 runners and corporate sponsorships, while Old Dominion is under 100 runners with aid stations based out of the back of pickup trucks. $410 vs. $185 entry fees. One is a 7 hour flight away in California, the other a 3 hour car ride. There are several other things pulling me towards Virginia next June and I’ll fill you in on all the details later. But for now, I’ll let lottery season pass me by again.
Are you anxiously awaiting any lottery results?