396 people were selected for the start of the Western States 100 ultra running event by lottery. On June 23, 2001 at 4:20 AM their quest begins and so does this 52 minute documentary. Starting as a horse race in 1977, 14 original competitors raced to earn belt buckles for completing the distance. Now, without the horses, men and women test themselves in a quest for the same prize, if they complete the event in under 30 hours. Beyond the start in Squaw Valley, CA, some of the featured checkpoints in this video include: Robinson Flat, Devil's Thumb, Michigan Bluff, Foresthill School, Rucky Chucky, Highway 49 and the finish at Placer High School. You will meet many athletes as they trying to stay in front of the cut off times, maintain their body weight, and keep their feet in condition to keep going. Complete with helicopter footage, athlete interviews, and developing race dynamics, you will get a taste of what will be sacrificed if you dare to run 100 miles that includes 15,500 feet of elevation gain and 23,000 feet of decline. KVIE television offers this tape for sale in both NTSC as well as PAL format if you want to live this adventure again and again. You can also buy this production in DVD format that has an additional 55 minutes of bonus footage, including more check points and more emotional scenes from the finish line. The official Western States 100 web site offers past race results, maps and course information, training and qualifying standards, and applications for the 31st annual run scheduled in 2004. On the cover of this video is Jennifer Devine-Pfeifer followed by Emma Davies.
Runners featured in this movie include:
Scott Jurek. Will this two time winner make it three in a row during this 2001 event?
Ann Trason. This woman has won this event an amazing 11 times. She placed 2nd overall in 1994 and has she now regained the form to challenge for the overall win this year?
Tim Twietmeyer. This 42 year old from Auburn has ran under 20 hours on twenty consecutive races, winning five previous times. Is this his year to reclaim the title?
Topher Gaylord. With severe cramps at Michigan Bluff will he have enough to finish this year?
Lucinda Fischer. With eight previous starts and no completions (she did reach 96 miles one year) will this year be different as she learns from her past experiences?
John & Terry Rhodes. This couple met on these trails, fell in love, and now compete together as husband and wife. Will they beat the cut off time and earn a belt buckle for their effort?
Patti Harden. Can she beat the horn sounding at the track to say she officially completed the Western States 100?
"These people, every one of them, is setting out on a magnificent experience, that even if they've done it before, it will change their life. I know that the trail and the event has that epicness in it and so few people in our day and age are able to do something epic." ~ Gordon Ainsleigh
"It's got heat. It's got hills. It's got rugged trails. It's tough. There is no doubt about it, it's an incredibly physically demanding challenge" ~ Topher Gaylord
"It's just long no matter how you cut it." ~ Scott St. John
"The soul is touched when you run ultra running because you are completely broken down and then you rebuild yourself out there. And that is just the way ultra running is. It's a test and you will be broken and rebuild yourself." ~ Narrator
"The runners who finish after 24 hours are able to say that they have seen the sunrise, twice. Their bodies are broken down, their hearts are strong, they're determined to finish. And the runners keep coming in." ~ Narrator
The finish line words spoken by Patti Harden are too profound and emotional to print here. View this video and you will not forget her words anytime soon.
Postscript: Jurek has claimed seven titles in a row from 1999 to 2005, setting a course record in 2004 with a time of 15 hours, 36 minutes. Trason continued her win streak in 2002 and 2003 to cement her 14th victory and the right to be named one of the greatest ultra runners of all time. She did not compete in 2004.