The Western States Endurance Run 100-miler is one of the most prestigious ultramarathons in the world, and one of the few ultras with worldwide notoriety that extends beyond the inner circle of diehard ultrarunners to regular marathoners and shorter-distance runners.
The epic trail course was actually originally intended as a horseback riding race, known as the Western States Endurance Ride.
Since the Western States 100-Miler became an official running event in 1978, it has risen to become the most prestigious ultramarathon in the United States, rivaling the global prestige of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.
The Western States and Endurance Run begins in Olympic Valley, California, and finishes 100.2 miles later on the track at Pacer High School in Auburn, California.
The route requires over 18,000 feet of vertical gain, and an unbelievable 23,000 feet of descent, requiring intrepid ultrarunners to climb nearly 3000 feet in the first 4.5 miles of the race.
Entry into the Western States Ultramarathon is coveted, and the field is consistently stacked with many of the world’s best ultra runners every year, making for a super competitive and exciting race with the victor earning the awe of the other participants and the ultramarathon community at large.
The 2023 Western States Endurance Run was no different, as two of the best ultramarathon runners—Courtney Dauwalter and reigning UTMB champion Katie Schide—had an early head-to-head battle over the first 38 miles of the world’s oldest 100-mile trail running course.
Both women were well ahead of the Western States 100 Miler course record through the early miles of the race, though Courtney Dauwalter tends to run with her heart on the line and give it her all.
At the 2019 Western States Endurance Run, she was also on pace to break Ellie Greenwood’s Western States 100 course record, but unfortunately, she started to deal with hip pain about 66 miles into the race, which ultimately progressed.Her hip issue forced her to drop out of the race around mile 79.
Fortunately, Courtney Dauwalter’s 2023 Western States Ultra performance was her own personal redemption and then some, as she not only finished the ultra trail race, but also won the race and broke the course record.
Courtney Deuwalter triumphantly broke the tape in 15:29:33, obliterating the previous Western States course record by an astounding 77 minutes and 46 seconds, the same course record held by Ellie Greenwood that eluded Dauwalter’s 2019 performance and has stood for 11 years.
Talk about a remarkable and memorable triumph!
Western States ultra runners were gifted with relatively cooler temperatures than often experienced on race day, and were saved from some of the snowfall that impacted the course conditions last year (the first 15 miles of the course were covered in snow!).
In fact, the weather for the 2023 Western States ultra race was actually the fourth coldest day in the long history of the race, which lent itself well to great performances all around.
About 38 miles into the race, Dauwalter had a small lead over her early competitor, Katie Schide of about 47 seconds.
This gap began to grow, and by the 100K mark into the 100 mile trail race, Dauwalter had a decisive lead that continued to grow throughout the remainder of the ultramarathon.
Courtney Dauwalter has consistently been considered one of the greatest women ultramarathon runners of all time, if not the greatest across all gender categories, and her 2023 Western States Endurance Run victory is further evidence of this deserving accolade.
Despite having an early head-to-head battle with Dauwalter, runner-up Katie Schide finished 74 minutes back, crossing the line in 16:43:45.
Though it may seem like a 74-minute lag behind the leader is not a particularly stellar performance by the UTMB champion, Schide’s Western States finish time still beat the previous course record.
Rather than being a “subpar“ performance by this other legendary ultra runner, it was still an amazing ultra race showing by Katie Schide and further demonstrative of how truly legendary Courtney Dauwalter’s Western States ultra race execution was.
Although running an ultramarathon certainly takes a major physical and mental toll on the body, and shattering such a long-standing course record is further indicative of the intensity of Dauwalter’s efforts, she’s actually jumping right back into another big ultramarathon race in just a couple weeks, as Dauwalter plans to race the iconic Hardrock 100 100-miler on July 14, 2023.
You can keep up with all of her ultrarunning adventures on her Instagram account here.
On the men’s side, one of the UK‘s most prominent ultra runners, Tom Evans, took the victory, winning the race in 14:40, which was the fourth fastest Western States finish time ever posted, and placed him 24 minutes ahead of the runner-up.
Full results of the 2023 Western States Endurance Run 100 Miler can be found here.
If you are interested in trying some trail running yourself, check out our guide to trail running for beginners here.