10 takeaways from the 2022 Western States
By Henry Howard
The 2022 edition of the Western States Endurance Run lived up to the hype. In the buildup to the popular and historic 100-mile trail race in California, a lot of discussion focused on forecasts of who would emerge victorious, given that neither defending champion was in the field.
On the men’s side, three-time defending champion Jim Walmsley declined returning to focus on Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in August while women’s defending champion Beth Pascall also decided not to return.
There is a lot to process and analyze about this race, from the podium finishers to the Golden Hour celebrations and everything in between. Here are 10 immediate takeaways:
• First time is the charm, again: Adam Peterman, making his debut in the 100-mile distance, won the 2022 race with a time of 15:13:47 — the 11th fastest ever, just five seconds ahead of Anton Krupicka’s 2010 finish. Hayden Hawks placed second with a time of 15:47:27, the 31st fastest in race history. For Peterman, this continues a rare streak: he has won his first 50K (Speedgoat), first 50-miler (JFK 50), first 100K (Canyons) and now his first 100-miler. He has clearly established himself as the ultra runner to beat.
• Women who rock: On the women’s side, Ruth Croft of New Zealand led a contingent of top international finishers. Her finishing time of 17:21:30 is the third-fastest women’s time in the 49-year history of the race. Croft now has two of the top six all-time finishes for women (last year she placed second in a time of 17:33:48). Canada’s Ailsa Macdonald placed second this year in 17:46:45, the 10th fastest time in Western States history. Within a few years, I would expect Ellie Greenwood’s course record (16:47:19 in 2012) to be topped. Will it be Croft, Macdonald or someone else?
• International flavor: Among the topics in the pre-race chatter was how well the international runners would do. On the women’s side, it turns out, extraordinarily well. The top five women all hail from outside the United States, as does the 10th finisher among women. Last year, for the first time in Western States history, the top three women were all from outside the U.S. I don’t see this as a weak field among U.S. women. Instead, it’s several factors converging: the lifting of COVID-influenced travel restrictions allowing more international runners to run Western, the addition of Western States to the UTMB series and the absence of some elite U.S. runners. First and foremost is 2018 Western States champion Courtney Dauwalter, who is focused on other major races this season.
• A strong 11: In 2021, the three top women all placed in the overall top 10 – Pascall in seventh, Croft in ninth and Ragna Debats in 10th, another Western States first. In all, women claimed 15 of the top 30 spots. This year, Croft was 12th overall, Macdonald 15th and Marianne Hogan 17th. There were 11 women in the top 30. While comparatively speaking this was a dropoff from last year, it is notable — historically speaking — that this is a significant showing for the women.
• Young and fast: Fourteen of the top 16 men are in their 20s and 30s. They represent all the males who finished in under 19 hours. The top three finishers — Peterman, Hawks and Arlen Glick — are not the only ones who will be podium contenders in virtually any race they enter. Tyler Green, Drew Holmen, Cody Lind and Alex Nichols all have back-to-back top 10 finishes at Western. The competition among these athletes in their prime years will be fun to follow in the years to come.
• Shoe-ins: From what I can tell, two of the top 10 men currently do not have shoe contracts. Glick, who finished third, does not have a shoe sponsor — as of now. Neither does Scott Traer, who came in 10th on the men’s side. Recently he posted on Instagram that he would be wearing Speedlands, “paired with my white button down shirt and I’m gonna look all business (at Western States).”
• Shoe diversity: If the shoe works for you, wear it. At least nine different brands had runners finish in the top 10 and only one (Hoka) had at least one athlete finish in the top 10 for both men and women. Of the sponsored athletes, finishing in the top 10 for the men, three were wearing Hokas (including Peterman and Hawks), two wore Nikes, another two sported Scotts and one had New Balance. On the women’s side, three are adidas athletes, another three represent Salomon, while two wore Saucony, and one each for Hoka and inov-8.
• California Dreamin’: None of the top 10 males currently live in the Golden State. Among the pre-race favorites were California resident Tim Tollefson, who is extremely familiar with the course. He finished 21st after taking fifth place a year ago. It wasn’t his year but I have a feeling he’ll be back and will even improve upon that top five finish.
• Always be prepared: Mad props to Allen Currano, who emerged from the wait list the day before the race started, and finished in under 24 hours. Currano, 49, of New Mexico, finished with a time of 23:05:55. He was the 37th runner who went from the wait list to the starting line. Starting at number 68 on the wait list, he barely got into the race because another 30 runners in front of him either removed themselves or declined the entry. Just like when hitting a hard patch during an ultra, never give up. Congratulations, sir!
• The Golden Hour: It’s still the best hour in ultra marathons. After a week fueled by various anxieties, social media rage and more, it was a welcome reprieve to see dreams come true for the back-of-the-packers as they achieve a longtime goal.
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