It's Lottery Season!
This past weekend was the infamous lottery for the Western States Endurance Run, to be held in June. Was anyone else glued to the live stream manifesting as much luck as they could in hopes that one of the tickets drawn would have your name on it? Perhaps you were a name on a lucky ticket and will find yourself excitedly planning out your training schedule to prepare for this iconic 100 mile race.
So what is all the hype about?
The Western States Endurance Run is one of the oldest 100 mile ultramarathons in the world. The concept of completing 100 miles in less than a day, or under 24 hours was first thought of in 1955 as Wendell T. Robie and five others rode horses on the Western States Trail from Tahoe City to Auburn, California. This quest then formed the iconic horserace, The Tevis Cup. In 1974, a seasoned Tevis Cup participant, Gordy Ainsleigh found himself in a difficult situation when his horse came up lame as he was preparing for the Tevis Cup. Gordy decided to see if he would be able to participate alongside the horses to see if a human could also complete the 100 mile distance in less than 24 hours, and 20 hours and 42 minutes later, he arrived in Auburn, showing that a runner could indeed complete this distance within the 24 hour time frame modeled after the Tevis Cup. And so it began. In subsequent years, several other runners attempted this feat and in 1977 the first official Western States Endurance Run was held.
The hype comes with the history, the legends, the wild and raw country that this point-to-point race passes through. But the hype also comes due to the high demand and very few participants permitted. The race course actually goes into the Granite Chief Wilderness, which is generally not permitted for commercial use. However, this came into play in 1984 with the California Wilderness Act, after the Western States Endurance Run had already been established. The Board of Directors from the Western States Endurance Run Foundation were able to lobby to grandfather this race in, despite the new protection of the wilderness area. That particular year, there happened to be 369 runners and therefore, the number of entrants was capped per the agreement for continuation of the race. So to this day, 369 lucky runners are drawn from the lottery to be able to participate in the next year’s edition of the race.
The lottery became a necessity as the popularity of the event grew. The first lottery occurred in 2000 and had 583 applicants. For the 2024 edition of the race there were 9,388 applicants, which equated to 41,392 tickets. Now you can start to see why it is so difficult to get into this race.
Photo Credit Western States Endurance Run
How does a runner get in?
To enter the lottery which occurs in early December, you need to have a qualifying race (completed within the designated qualifying period). Once you have a qualifying race, in early November you have a 3 week window to add your name to the lottery. The entry process is designed to increase your odds each subsequent year your name is not drawn. Each applicant will receive 2^(n-1) tickets in the lottery for each failure to gain entry where “N” is the number of years applied. For example, if a runner attempts to get into the race 2 times, they will have 4 tickets the next time. The next time, it would be 8, then 16, then 32 and so on. That is why for the 2024 lottery there were far more tickets than applicants. There were 8 people who were on their 9th lottery drawing, who had still not gotten an entry, but statistically they now had an 85% chance to get in. Unfortunately though, not all of them did get in, so on to year 10, which will be a first!
Photo Credit: Steven Peterson
My Name Got Drawn - Now What?
If you were one of the lucky 369 entrants (375 this year to make up for the lost numbers from the COVID cancellation in 2020), preparation begins now! This is essentially a “once in a lifetime” opportunity that you want to make sure you are prepared for so you can maximize your ability to cross that finish line in Auburn, California at the Placer High School track. You want to see the beauty of the high country, feel the intense heat in the depths of the canyons, cross the Ruck-a-Chucky via raft or wading across it with a rope (and take a plunge to cool off). You also want to cross “No Hands Bridge” and make your way up to the infamous “Robie Point” (named after Wendell T. Robie) and then follow the WSER footprints the final mile home to the Placer High Track. This last mile you get to have your entire crew join you, run you in and cheer as loud as they can as you enter the track and get your one glorious lap around the track to the finish line. This race is truly magical with the energy, the beauty, wonderful people and the deep history of that trail.
Stay tuned for additional blog posts that share considerations for success at the Western States Endurance Run by Coach Brittany who has run the Western States Endurance Run three times, placed top 5 twice and top 20 all three times.
Brittany is a professional ultrarunner who earned a golden ticket to enter The Western States Endurance Run in 2019, where she went on to finish 2nd after an incredible duel in the final miles of the race. Brittany is a 3-time finisher of the Western States Endurance Run with 2 top 5 finishes. Prior to competing each year at the race, Brittany spent a great deal of time training on the course.