Jack Bailey had to wait an extra year to experience his dream of running the Western States Endurance Run, but when that opportunity finally came he made the most of it.
Bailey, 42, of Medway, Mass., entered the Western States lottery several times without success before finally having his name drawn on the sixth try for the 2020 race. Ultimately, the 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing Bailey and several other New England hopefuls to wait an additional year to have their opportunity to run the sport’s original 100-mile trail race.
On June 26-27, Bailey toed the starting line alongside 314 other runners in Olympic Valley, Calif., to begin the 100.2-mile journey to the finish line on the track of Placer High School in Auburn, Calif. A lack of snow on the course led to a faster start for much of the field, while scorching triple-digit temperatures punished those who went out too quickly, making it a sneakily challenging year.
Bailey spent the entire race in the top half of the field. He patiently climbed the Escarpment during the early miles and then cruised through the next few sections, ultimately reaching Robinson Flat at mile 30.3 in 6 1/2 hours. From there, the day grew hot as Bailey navigated the steep and steamy canyons before reaching Devil’s Thumb (mile 47.8) with 11:06 expired, and then El Dorado Creek at mile 52.9 in 12:33. Those challenging sections took their toll on Bailey, and he slipped back 30 spots in the field during the next 25 miles as he made his way to the river crossing at Rucky Chucky (mile 78). From there, Bailey rallied hard. He passed nearly 40 runners during the final 22 miles of the race before arriving on the track at Placer High School and crossing the finish line 92nd overall in 27:30:01.
Joining Bailey in the long-wait category was Scott Slater of Guilford, Conn. Slater, 43, spent eight years in the Western States lottery before having his name selected — and then had to wait an additional year to run the race due to the pandemic. Once there, Slater would not be deterred by the heat or the course. He persevered through all of it, and ultimately finished 121st overall in 28:21:50.
A third New England resident, 44-year-old Jim McCaffrey of Hamden, Conn., finished 154th in 29:02:43.
Three other New England residents also took part in the race but dropped along the way. Dylan Broderick, 30, of Montpelier, Vt., started strong before the day took its toll on her. She reached the El Dorado Creek aid station at mile 52.9 in 13:16:00, but ultimately withdrew from the race at that point. Both Melissa Osanna, 52, of Bar Harbor, Maine, and Dan Balestrieri, 41, of Billerica, Mass., dropped from the race after 30.3 miles.
Of the 315 runners who started the race, 208 finished within the 30-hour time limit. That included several of the top performances in event history, most notably on the women’s side as three women finished in the overall top 10. Additionally, the top 30 overall finishers were an even 15-15 split among women and men.
Beth Pascall, 33, of Belper, U.K., finished seventh overall and clocked the second-fastest time in women’s course history with her winning time of 17:10:42. Only Canadian Ellie Greenwood has gone faster, with her course-record time of 16:47:19 from 2012. Not far behind Pascall was women’s runner-up Ruth Croft of Stillwater, New Zealand. The 32-year-old Croft posted the fifth-fastest time in course history in her 100-mile debut, finishing in a speedy 17:33:48. Third-place woman Ragna Debats, 42, of Matadepera, Spain, was 10th overall and notched the eighth-fastest time on the women’s record board by finishing in 17:41:13.
In the men’s field, 31-year-old Jim Walmsley of Flagstaff, Ariz., earned his third straight victory and posted the fourth-fastest time in course history, finishing in 14:46:01. He set the course record of 14:09:28 in 2019. Tyler Green, 37, of Portland, Ore., was second in 16:11:02, followed by 29-year-old Drew Holmen of Boulder, Colo., in 16:23:09. Former Boston resident Kyle Pietari, 34, now of Edgewood, Colo., earned his fourth straight top-10 finish at Western States and his highest finish yet, placing sixth overall in 17:00:34.