The WSER is rich in history (a complete history of the Western States Trail, the Trail Ride, and the rune, head on over to the History section of the WSER web-site). In 1955, Wendell T. Robie and five horsemen rode the Western States Trail from Squaw Valley to Auburn, proving that horses could cover 100 miles in a single day. Robie later founded the Western States Trail Foundation and organized the annual Western States Trail Ride (a/k/a the Tevis Cup). In 1974, Tevis Cup veteran Gordy Ainsleigh decided to join the horses participating in the Western States Trail Ride to see if he could complete the course on foot, and arrived in Auburn 23:42 after the start. The following year Ron Kelley attempted the 100 miles on foot, but dropped two miles of the finish.
The first official WSER took place in 1977 and included 14 runners, only 3 of which (Andy Gonzales in 22:57, and Peter Mattei and Ralph Paffenbarger, both in 28:36) finished the race. It was the 1977 event that gave birth to the 30-hour time award.
The Board of Directors for the Western States Endurance Run was formed as part of the Western States Trail Foundation in the fall of 1977. An increase in interest and participation in the WSER quickly followed. Soon, the race grew to include 21 aid stations and 6 medical checks. 63 runner participated in 1978, including the first woman, Pat Smythe, who finished in 29:34. 143 runners participated in 1979, and the event has since reached its full entrance quota.
From 1999 to 2005 the men's event was dominated by Scott Jurek, including his course record 15:36:27 in 2004. Graham Cooper took the men's title in 2006, and Hal Koerner returns this year as the defending champion. On the women's side, the great Ann Trason was virtually unstoppable from 1989 to 2003, winning 10 straight and 14 out of 15 (her only non-win occurring in 1999), and setting the women's course record of 17:37:51 in 1994. Since 2003, the women's event has been won 3 times by Nikki Kimball (2004, 2006 and 2007) and once by Annette Bednosky (2005).
And then there was, of course, the 2006 controversy involving Graham Cooper (18:17:28) and Brian Morrison (DQ). Coached by, ironically, Jurek, Morrison would collapse a few times during the final 300 meters on the Placer High School track. Aided by Jurek and another pacer, and despite being comfortably (a few minutes) ahead of Cooper, Morrison was later disqualified for receiving aid during the run from his pacers, and for failing to complete the distance under his own power. Cooper was declared the winner.
Yet, with its stellar field, the 2008 edition of the WSER is sure to be exciting. Be sure to follow along on race day by visiting the WSER Event Webcast !