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From the Western States wait list to Golden Hour finish in two days

Greg Bergeron's heart is full after he finishes the Western States 100.

(Photo by Mark Griffith)

By Henry Howard


Imagine if you learned that in 16 hours you would be running your dream race. And not just any race, an incredibly difficult one to gain entry into, the Western States 100.


That’s precisely what happened to Greg Bergeron, who was picked off the wait list after another entrant did not show up at packet pickup. He not only was the last runner selected off the wait list but Bergeron finished the 100-miler, among the 60 runners who crossed the line in the Golden Hour.


For Bergeron, running has been a life-changing journey.


His path to the Western States


Long before his Western States achievement, Bergeron weighed 230 pounds and started running to lose weight.

Greg Bergeron always knew he would get off the wait list and into Western States.

“I just didn't want to be fat anymore,” he says of the transformation that began in 1998. “So I used running to get in shape and I ended up losing about 50 pounds over four or five months. And then I started running more and more.”


Bergeron, who now weighs 150 pounds, followed a typical runner’s progression. A 5K in 2004, which led to his first marathon two years later and his first ultra in another four years.


His second ultra was a 50-mile road race in Canandaigua, N.Y.


“That was kind of unusual for an ultra but that was good for me because I wasn't fully ready for trails just yet,” he recalls. “Some of my ultra friends were giving me grief. That's pretty funny out there, you know, looking back on it.”


The transition to thinking about Western States began after his first 100-miler in 2013.


“It was rough, but it overall it went good,” he says. “Of course, again my other older friends were trying to convince me to run 100 miles and I just needed to be mentally ready for it. When I moved from Vermont to San Diego in 2015, I remember a friend of mine who crewed me before saying if I ever get into Western States, she’ll come crew me again.”


Bergeron’s first Western States qualifier was the Cuyamaca 100K in 2017, which eventually led to his 32 tickets in the drawing last December for the 2024 race.


No. 35 on the wait list


Bergeron attended the drawing in Auburn where his name was announced as the 35th on the wait list.


“It was great to go up on stage,” he remembers. “They gave me a little bag of goodies of a T-shirt, book, socks and all that stuff.”


Upon returning home, he looked up recent wait lists. In 2023, the last person in was number 56; the previous year, number 68 made the cut (Allen Currano had a similar experience, detailed here) and the year before the wait list went through all 49 participants.

Greg Bergeron went from the Western States wait list to the finishing line in 46 hours..

“At 35, I figured I'm in for sure,” says Bergeron, who immediately made reservations for places to stay and a car. “I figured absolutely, I'm in. Delusional maybe, but yeah, that's what I was thinking.”


As the wait list slowly turned over, Bergeron paid little attention to it. He knew he would get in. He trained as if he was running Western States. He locked in his crew. He was ready.


On June 13, runner number 32 accepted, meaning Bergeron was now third on the wait list.

“And then a few days later I'm at number two on the waitlist. I'm still 100% convinced I'm getting in. I always just had this hope and was just sure that I was going to get it.”


‘I'd like to offer you a spot in Western States’


Then the wait list stalled. Finally, 11 days later — just two days before the start— another runner was moved to the entrants list from the wait list. Bergeron was up next.


He learned he was on deck while grocery shopping with a crew member after arriving in town.  


“Now I'm number one and so super excited,” he recalls. “Friday morning we go to the registration at 9 and (race director) Craig Thornley says he can't do anything until registration closes at 1. So there's not much I could do then. I was wandering around the village and I bumped into Chris Worden, who works for Mountain Outpost.”


Worden asked a supposedly simple question, “Are you running tomorrow?” Bergeron shared his story, which was recorded and shared on Instagram.


Finally, 1 p.m. rolls around and about 10 minutes later, Bergeron gets a phone call. “Craig says, ‘I have two spots available maybe,’ and my heart is pounding.”


Thornley needed to do his due diligence first and call both of the other runners to see what’s going on.


“At 1:23 — I remember that time very well — Craig called me the second time and says, ‘I'd like to offer you a spot in the Western States 100 miler.’ I yelled out, ‘I’m in!’ and then everyone hovering around that registration area were all cheering for me as well. It was just such a crazy time.”

Greg Bergeron credits his crew and pacers for his Western States finish.

‘Nerves on top of nerves’


Less than 16 hours before the start of the race, Bergeron is in and his crew is on the way, just how he planned.


“It was nerves on top of nerves because it's so hard, hard enough to be planning and thinking about running 100 miles. But on top of that, hoping that I get in. It was it was just crazy.”


He had met with his crew the Monday before the race so now was a time to rest, meet once again and prepare for the next day.


“I was super excited. I was ready to go. It's been a couple of years since I've done a 100, but this race is epic and I was definitely nervous. But I do know one thing that I said to my crew was that I won't let you down because they sacrificed a lot to come up there for me.”


Bergeron expected to finish near the 30-hour cutoff, based on his times at the San Diego 100, which were around 28 to 29 hours. “I know Western is definitely much harder. So I was nervous, but I was still pretty sure I was going to finish.”


A beautiful day


The race did not disappoint from the start.


“The escarpment was amazing. You're running through this gantlet of people cheering for you. My friend Harrison was at the top and two of my pacers actually ran up about two miles up the trail as well and got some great pictures of me, which was great. Just on the other side of the escarpment, someone was playing U2’s “Beautiful Day.”


Bergeron had a good plan to deal with the heat, including using an ice bandana, and ice in his sleeves and hat. Still, the canyons took their toll.

His fifth 100-miler was his most memorable.

“It’s a really rocky, narrow, kind of overgrown trail,” he explains. “My quads were already trashed. And so I was walking down some of that and it was hot. Then you get down to the very bottom, and then you start climbing right back up right out of there. It was brutal.”


Bergeron moved at his own pace while his team made sure he had a cushion to finish under the 30-hour cutoff. “My pacers were great. I never really had too much of a fear of missing out because I knew my pacers were keeping on top of that.”


As expected, he finished in the Golden Hour around the 29:20 mark, roughly 46 hours after receiving word that he would be in the race.


“It was extreme enjoyment, elation,” he says of finishing his fifth and most memorable 100-miler. “It was so great running the track with my whole crew. They were instrumental. I couldn't have done it without them. They were right on exactly what I needed. When I finished, I'm holding my chest, like keeping my heart inside of my chest because it was just swirling with emotion. I was blown away after six long years of trying to get here.”


Appropriately enough, Thornley presented the finisher’s buckle to wait list entrant No. 35.


“He was super happy that I got in as well. He gave me my buckle and I was super excited for that.”


Advice for Western States wait listers


As of this writing, we are roughly five months from the drawing for the 2025 Western States race. There will be a new cast of hopefuls on the wait list, including those drawn in the mid-30s where Bergeron found himself.


Greg Bergeron finished Western States in about 29:20..

His advice: "For someone drawn in the 30s, there is no guarantee at all. Book things early but make sure you can get a refund or cancel any reservations you make prior. And it goes without saying, but train like you're going to do it. If you don't get in then you're trained and can go find another 100 or whatever you want to do.”


Bergeron is grateful for his experience, his crew and the support he’s received.


“It's been amazing from random strangers reaching out and people during the race who saw my bib number 401,” he says. “They knew I was on the waitlist and they were cheering me on. It's been amazing. I'm really lucky to have experienced it and to soak it all in and enjoy every minute of it.


When asked if he wanted to run Western States again — heck, he’s already got his qualifier — Bergeron needs some time to think it through.


“Part of me does think that maybe I could run it faster if I am more mentally prepared and to actually run more instead of walking,” he says. So there's a chance.”


Speed drill

Name: Greg Bergeron

Hometown: San Diego

Number of years running: 20 years

How many miles a week do you typically run: 40 to 50

Point of pride: “Being very supportive and welcoming to my fellow runners.”

Favorite race distance: 50K

Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: de la Rosa mazapan

Favorite piece of gear: Garmin 955

Who inspires you: “Scotty Mills. He's run Western States 20 times!!”

Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “If you think you can, or you think you can't ... You're right.”

Where can other runners connect or follow you:

Instagram: @ultramansd



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