Monday, November 21, 2011

WS100: The Lottery

It opened on November 12th and after only two days, more then 1,000 people had tossed their name into the hat. 1000 People put $370 on hold, only to be cashed in after their luck, hopefully, has it good. Others who want to join, have until November 26th to toss their name into that same hat. As of the writing of this post, the number is over 1,700 names, which means you're likely to have a 9% chance of even getting in if history holds true. Yes, this is how they select the participants for the 2012 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.

My thoughts on this race have evolved over the last 7 years. It was 2006 when I ran my first 50 mile qualifier. Back then, any 50 mile race would do in order to qualify you to run in the event, and subsequently put your name into the hat for the lottery. Things have changed since then. Now the WS100 provides a list of races runners can complete in order to qualify for the event. When I first realized this, I was impressed by the organizers commitment, in listening to the feedback of the ultra-community, in making the event harder to get into by improving the qualifying standard.


I successfully finished 2 qualifiers in 2011, and I successfully finished 4 qualifiers in 2010 one of which includes the race itself. So I went to the UltraSignUp page to look at throwing my name in the hat.. and then I saw the price tag. $370. This is another $20 more than it cost in 2010 and is the seventh year in a row that the entry price has risen.

So I went to the Vermont 100 Website to see what their entry rate is for 2012. In the 3 years that I ran the race, and even the 1 year that I paced; the price had always been $175. Last year, they increased the entry fee to $200. This is not a complaint. For years I've written RD Julia Hutchinson, telling her that since the event is a fundraiser, they should raise the entry free a bit to help cover the rising cost of putting a race like that on. I'm glad to see they finally did, and that the price remains reasonable and un-insulting. Yeah, I said it, The price of the WS100 INSULTS me. But the main point with this statistic is that the Vermont 100 had gone a half dozen years without raising their entry fee once, when the WS100 has raised it damn near every year.

After the race in 2010, I wrote a couple of posts about this race. The first being my Top 10 Things I learned at the WS100. The second being about the overall experience in Western States Thoughts. Over the last week, I've sat in front of my computer and hemmed and hawed about signing up again. Of course I would LOVE to run on that course again. But the reality of it is, I'd rather just run the course without all the hoopla.

The Western States 100 has gotten out of hand. About 400 people are about to pay $370, raking in a total of nearly $148,000. As a previous race director myself, I can tell you, 100% certifiably, that it doesn't cost nearly that much money to put this, or any, race on. The entry fee has gone up, every single year, since 2004. Furthermore, this price is set simply by supply and demand. After sifting through their enormously large website, I fail to see anywhere, a statement which states that any of the entry fee goes to a real charitable organization. They claim to be a not-for-profit organization, which is quite simply a joke. The RD Greg Soderlund has vacated his position, they're looking for a new RD, and that person will receive a yearly salary of over $30,000 (more then I make in a year at current) to take on the task of directing the race. It's time that the WS100 shows the ultra-community their numbers. How much  money does it take in? Where does the money go? Who's getting paid and how much? What is the true 100% value of your entry fee?

Yeah, I'll shove an elephant into the room, or play the part myself. Is this race worth $370? In my opinion, NO. Is this race worth all the hype and hoopla? In my opinion, NO. Is this race the true golden icon, the moniker, the standard or our sport, which has historical and traditional values of ultra-running in mind? In my opinion, NO. So.. with that, I quickly clicked off the page and decided to not enter the WS100 lottery and it's very likely I never will again. I'll take my money else where, staying away from the Big Money Ultras, and instead choosing to run the humble, ultra tradition rich events. After 7 years of ultra-running, over 20 runs of 100 miles or more and countless other ultras.. I know exactly what I'm looking for and Western States isn't it.

You don't need a race to run 100 miles.. just go.
SJ