10 takeaways from the 2023 Western States
By Henry Howard
The Western States 100-miler celebrated its 50th year anniversary in grand style on June 24-25. The race had it all — an almost unfathomable course record for the women, some surprises among both men’s and women’s fields, and a memorable Golden Hour.
Here are 10 takeaways from the 2023 Western States:
1. The GOAT. It’s Courtney Dauwalter’s world and we’re just living in it. She won the race in a course record time of 15:29:34, blowing away the previous mark of 16:47:19 set by Ellie Greenwood in 2012. Perhaps Kyle Pietari said it best in a tweet, “This is the greatest run ever in ultra trail running. @courtdauwalter has changed our understanding of what is possible in ultra running. Courtney, thank you so much for giving us this inspiring performance. I’m grateful.”
2. Katie, meet Jared. Katie Schide also broke the 2012 record, finishing second to Dauwalter with a time of 16:43:45. A terrific performance, one that literally would have won every other women’s race in the 50-year Western States history. Much like Jared Hazen’s performance in 2019, when he finished behind Jim Walmsley with the second-fastest time ever. Those are still the top two finishing times.
3. The men raced, too. It’s not often that the fourth-fastest time in race history gets overshadowed to a certain degree. But Dauwalter’s impressive performance garnered the bulk of attention. But don’t forget about Tom Evans. He won the race in a time of 14:40, the fourth-fastest.
4. Change of plans? Arlen Glick was among the favorites going into the race after more than a dozen podium finishes the past few years, including a sub-16 hour at Western a year ago. Glick was among those who are also signed up for Hardrock in just a few weeks. As he told me in an interview a few weeks ago, he was prioritizing Western States. But once he dropped off the pace, did he ease off the gas in order to make a strong effort at Hardrock? We’ll know soon.
5. A model of consistency. Tyler Green seemed to be just below the surface during all the pre-race hype, almost an afterthought when it came to predictions. His second-place finish should not be a surprise though. He is the only male to finish in the top 10 each of the past three years, starting with second overall in 2021 and fourth-place last year. It’s only a matter of time until his consistency lands him in first place.
6. A pair of aces. Two women have finished in the top 10 each of the past three years. Katie Asmuth took fifth in 2021, placed ninth last year and finished fourth this year. Emily Hawgood took seventh two years ago and has finished fifth each of the past two races. Both women have shown the consistency and grit to end up on the podium, perhaps as early as next year.
7. Only a matter of time. After Camille Herron finished eighth a year ago and 26th a year earlier, expectations focused on an even stronger finish for the world record holder. Unfortunately, she dropped out and ended up with her third DNF. Herron has too much talent and speed to be counted out. No doubt she will put it all together at Western States some year.
8. Sneaker diversity. According to my count, 18 of the 20 top finishers in the men’s and women’s races have sneaker sponsors. Of those 18, there were 12 different shoe brands represented with Adidas Terrex (four total) the only one with more than two athletes finishing in the top 10. In last year’s race there were nine brands sponsoring top 10 finishers.
9. Thank you, volunteers. It really says a lot about the commitment of the race volunteers, staff, fire crews and everyone else who helped make this year’s race possible after the devastating fire. Once the damage was assessed, there were doubts about whether the race would be able to go off as planned. Thankfully, it did.
10. Golden Hour shines through. There were 68 runners who finished in the final hour, eliciting cheers from a large crowd at the Placer High School track. Jennifer St. Amand was the final official finisher, crossing the line in 29:59:39. Ash Bartholomew, father of elite ultra runner Lucy Bartholomew, captured the hearts of onlookers, falling just a few minutes shy of an official finish. (For a look back at Gunhild Swanson’s amazing finish with six second to spare, check this out.)
I was inspired as I followed a collection of inspiring runners and story lines over the 30 hours. Like many ultra runners, my goal is to get into finish Western States. With that said, I will be finishing my fourth 100-miler, and fourth qualifier, next month. And once I cross the finish line at Burning River, I’ll be looking forward to the drawing in December for the 2024 version of Western States.
Let the countdown begin!