The establishment of the Western States Endurance Run (WSER) in 1977 was one of the most important pivotable events in the history of ultrarunning. During the next decade the existing ultrarunning sport experienced a major shift from roads and tracks to trails and mountains. Other 100-mile races were spawned from the Western States 100, patterning their race formats and practices after those established by WSER. A new generation of ultrarunners came into the sport and the Western States Endurance Run became the most famous mountain trail 100-miler.
WSER proclaims that it owns 100-mile racing’s richest and most compelling history. “Western States has been home to some of the sport’s most stirring and legendary competitions and has spurred the capacity of spirit of all runners, of all abilities and from all walks of life, from all over the globe. Western States remains one of the undisputed crown jewels of human endurance.”
With such a rich and long history that has been told and retold over the years, it is not surprising that folklore has crept in, and historic errors introduced by mistake or on purpose, making the legend of Western States and its origin story even more compelling. With the establishment of the Internet and social media, much like the “telephone game” myths have been told and retold.
The Western States Trail Run grew out of the Western States Endurance Ride which also has quite a bit of folklore attached to it. But this fact is clear, there would not have been a Run if the Ride had not existed. The riders who were organizers of the run had the experience and wisdom to establish the Western State Endurance Run.
I thought it would be interesting and helpful to look at many of these myths and some clarifying truths about the origin story of both the Western States Trail Ride and Western States Endurance Run. Major events like these, at times approach "mythical" status and place too much credit on certain individuals, pushing aside heritage and others who paved the way for these historical events to take place. The intent of this episode it to have some fun looking at the facts and get the reader thinking about history.