Kurt Bertilson/

Words by: Meghan M. Hicks.

Early tomorrow morning, several hundred ultrarunners will climb the hill from the base of California’s Squaw Valley USA ski area, beginning the Western States Endurance Run, the most venerated 100-mile race in the sport.

These men and women will begin their race in ice, as they ascend to the crest of the Sierra Nevada, through feet of snow leftover from last winter’s record snowfall, then descend into the fire of the western Sierras’ hot canyons. After hours of traveling through this ice and fire, racers will finally come to rest on the red, rubber track of Placer High School in Auburn, California. Runners have 30 hours to complete the distance, but the top men will do so in about half the time.



Kilian Jornet is hoping to improve upon last year’s third-place finish at the Western States 100. Photo:

Many of the world’s top ultrarunners will toe the line in pursuit of the champion’s title and cougar-studded trophy. While attrition is always a factor at the 100-mile distance, the race is so laden with talent that it is sure to be a near-sprint finish. In the following pages, we preview the top contenders in the men’s race.

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