As the sun rose over Massachusetts on a blustery, 30-degree morning, Maddy McCarthy laced up her running shoes and headed out for a run. Meanwhile, Karen Ringheiser headed to the Middlesex Fells Reservation to lend support at the Fells Winter Ultra.
It was Saturday, Dec. 3; lottery day for Western States Endurance Run hopefuls. McCarthy and Ringheiser were among the 51 runners from Massachusetts and 4,248 applicants worldwide vying for 250 spots up for grabs in ultrarunning’s original 100-mile race.
Both McCarthy and Ringheiser knew the lottery day drill as well as anybody. For most, that drill involves starting the day feeling hopeful, eventually learning that their names weren’t drawn, and then beginning the search for a race to re-qualify for the following year’s lottery.
This was McCarthy’s sixth straight year in the lottery; it was the fourth in a row for Ringheiser. Both were cautiously optimistic, but thoroughly realistic.
“Well with lotteries, you never know,” Ringheiser said. “I had applied for four years and didn’t get it, so like the past several years of the Western States lottery draw, I wasn’t about to keep glued to my computer.”
McCarthy hadn’t planned to watch the lottery either. She finished her 10-mile run before the lottery began, however, and temptation got the best of her.
Starting with 32-year-old Kim Espat of Redwood City, Calif., the lucky applicants were revealed. Fifty names were drawn with none representing Massachusetts; soon the field was up to 100, 150, and 175. By the time the 200th name had been drawn and the window was closing quickly, a familiar feeling began to set in for McCarthy.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get in,” she said. “After I watched 200 names be pulled and not seeing mine, I was pretty much sure it wasn’t happening again this year.”
Someone in her family believed that luck was on McCarthy’s side.
“I texted my sister, and she was like, ‘No way – you’ll be in the last 50 for sure,’” McCarthy recalled.
Seven more names were drawn. Then came No. 208, 36-year-old John Fisher, one of seven United Kingdom residents selected in the lottery. Finally, No. 209 … Maddy McCarthy. The wait was over. The 32-year-old resident of Newburyport was in.
“I literally jumped up and yelled, ‘I’m in!’ and then danced around the living room for a minute before I texted (my sister) to tell her she was right,” McCarthy said.
While McCarthy was following the lottery online when her name was drawn, Ringheiser was at the start/finish area of the Fells Winter Ultra, cheering on runners as they came in and out of the main aid station. Little did she know, Massachusetts had its first representative in the field for the 2017 Western States Endurance Run. She also was unaware that it was about to have another.
Ringheiser chatted with friends and cheered for runners as number 210 was drawn, on through the 220s and 230s. Soon, 240 came and went. The lottery was winding down to its final 10 picks. The 52-year-old Newton resident was unaware that the 244th name drawn out of 250 was hers until a few moments passed and she was handed a cell phone with the lottery tracking on the screen.
“Oh my God!” Ringheiser exclaimed over and over.
She was in a state of disbelief.
“It really is a dream come true to be selected to actually be at the start line of such a historical and famous race,” Ringheiser said.
Looking back, she admitted that she had a hunch luck might finally be on her side.
“Funny enough, a small part of me thought that I might get in this year, because all the other years I applied I was healthy, and this past fall was the first time I’ve ever had a serious running injury, so of course I get in,” Ringheiser said, referencing Achilles tendinopathy.
McCarthy and Ringheiser will have six months to prepare for the race. Neither has built out a detailed race schedule and training plan yet, but that will come soon. McCarthy is considering signing up for the Western States Training Camp May 27-29 in Forresthill, Calif. Ringheiser is already registered for the training camp.
The 44th running of Western States, will take place June 24-25, beginning in Squaw Valley, Calif., and ending on the track at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif.