The 2021 Western States Endurance Run was marked by several historic performances—most notably, three women finished in the overall top 10 for the first time in race history.
England’s Beth Pascall was the first woman to finish, placing seventh overall. She was joined by New Zealand’s Ruth Croft (this was her debut at the 100-mile distance) in ninth and the Netherland’s Ragna Debats, who only found out she was accepted into the race six weeks ago, in 10th.
A woman hasn’t placed in the top 10 since Pam Smith in 2013, and two women have not placed in the top 10 since 2006. Nine women finished in the top 20, including Americans Brittany Peterson (12th overall) and Katie Asmuth (14th overall), and 15 in the top 30. (You can find the full results here.)
“I think it’s awesome,” Pascall said. “It’s super exciting, and I’m so stoked for Ruth as well as the rest of the women.”
Runners faced brutally hot temperatures in California as a heat wave moves through the west coast, including up in the Pacific Northwest where the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials are happening. Many runners overheated and dropped throughout the day; by the 24-hour mark, 99 runners had dropped, including elites like Jared Hazen at mile 62, Jeff Browning at mile 62, Addie Bracy at mile 62, Nicole Bitter at 55, and Max King at mile 79.
One pro runner described the day as “carnage.”
Pascall ran a strong race amidst a deep elite field, leading the women’s field early and running steadily for the entire 100 miles. She picked off other runners throughout the day, but her lead wasn’t a lock until there were just a few miles left; as late as 80 miles, four other women were within 30 minutes of Pascall.
But no one would catch her, and she came onto the Placer High School track in Auburn, California to finish first in 17:10:42—the second fastest time ever posted by a woman at Western States behind only Ellie Greenwood’s 2012 record of 16:47:19.
“This year has been challenging for everybody,” Pascall said. “I put so much into the build up for this race. I kept doubting myself, wondering if it was the right thing to do. I’m just so happy this all came together in the end.”
In the men’s race, Jim Walmsley showed why he is a master of Western States. The course record-holder said he battled an IT band issue during this training block, leaving him unable to push up to his normal mileage or intensity. However, in classic Walmsley fashion, he went out with record-setting pace to see if he could hold on.
Walmsley was running neck and neck with Hayden Hawks for about the first 50K. The Hoka athletes were working together, running ahead of record-setting pace before they backed off a bit. Walmsley then slowly opened up what eventually turned into a 90-minute lead that he carried to the mile-78 American River crossing.
Ultimately, Walmsley ran into the history books again, becoming the third man to ever get the three-peat at Western States—the other two were Tim Twietmeyer (1994-1996 and five overall wins), and Scott Jurek, who won seven in a row, (1999-2005). His official time was 14:46:01. For the women, Ann Trason also owns a three-peat, raking in ten consecutive wins from 1989 to 1998, and fourteen total wins.
“This one is pretty rewarding for a lot of reasons: the three peat, this was a tough training block [because of the injury], and it was pretty hot today,” Walmsley said after the race. “Tim and Scott have a lot more than just three in a row. Those guys are legends. They hold their own right in their own era and forever at Western States. I’m grateful for them paving the road and setting the bar so high.”
Hawks appeared to have second place locked up for the majority of the back half of the course. But he slowed down significantly around mile 85, opening the door for Tyler Green, 35, of Portland, Oregon, and Drew Holmen, 23, of Boulder, Colorado, to make moves.
Green and Holmen passed Hawks and battled to the line—and Green finished first in 16:11:02, with Holmen right behind in 16:23:09. A notable fourth-place finish came not too long after as third-generation Western States runner Cody Lind ran a 16:49:40 in his debut, making the family proud.
The rest of the top 10 overall, and the top 10 men and women, shook out like this:
Top 10 Overall
- Jim Walmsley
- Tyler Green
- Drew Holmen
- Cody Lind
- Tim Tollefson
- Kyle Pietari
- Beth Pascall
- Stephen Kersh
- Ruth Croft
- Ragna Debats
Top 10 Women
- Beth Pascall, 7th overall, 17:10:42
- Ruth Croft, 9th overall, 17:33:48
- Ragna Debats, 10th overall, 17:41:13
- Brittany Peterson, 12th overall, 18:07:42
- Katie Asmuth, 14th overall, 18:23:24
- Audrey Tanguy, 16th overall, 18:37:45
- Emily Hawgood, 17th overall, 19:13:55
- Camelia Mayfield, 18th overall, 19:17:20
- Keely Henninger, 20th overall, 19:42:37
- Kaci Lickteig, 21st overall, 19:47:56
Top 10 Men
- Jim Walmsley, 1st overall, 14:46:01
- Tyler Green, 2nd overall, 16:11:02
- Drew Holmen, 3rd overall, 16:23:09
- Cody Lind, 4th overall, 16:49:40
- Tim Tollefson, 5th overall, 16:55:49
- Kyle Pietari, 6th overall, 17:00:34
- Stephen Kersh, 8th overall, 17:29:24
- Hayden Hawks, 11th overall, 17:48:47
- Kyle Curtain, 13th overall, 18:18:31
- Alex Nichols, 15th overall, 18:33:14
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