This weekend, hundreds of hard-core ultra runners will tackle Western States—"one of the ultimate endurance tests in the world," according to the event's website.
Officially known as the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run—or "Badwater," for short—the event actually takes competitors 100.2 miles from its start in California's Squaw Valley to the finish line in Auburn.
If you'll be among them, here are some tips that will help to ensure a fun, safe, and successful race.
1. Be Prepared
Remember, Western States isn't just any marathon—it's a 100-mile marathon! Before "toeing the line," you should have at least one long run of 20 miles under your belt. Remember, too, that much of the challenge is mental. So also prepare your mind somehow.
2. Get There Early
You'll want to arrive at least an hour before the start to snag a good parking spot—and to register, if you didn't do so online. Make checks payable to "Western States" or "Western States 100" or "Badwater."
If you can pull it off, you might even consider arriving a full day early. That way you can run the course and familiarize yourself with it before race day.
3. Line Up Where You Belong
Western States may be longer than a 5K marathon, but many of the same rules apply. For instance: If you're running with a jogging stroller, start at the back of the pack for safety's sake.
4. Use Fresh Shoes
One hundred miles is a long way to run, so you'll want shoes that are as new as possible. We recommend using a pair straight from the box.
5. Pass Politely
"Please be courteous to hikers, other runners, and horsemen" sharing the trail, says the event's website. This means pausing, if necessary, to let faster runners pass and announcing your own intention to overtake a hiker or runner.
Also from the website: "Runners should never pass a horse from behind without first notifying the rider." Tradition dictates that the first notification be in writing, though follow-ups may be verbal.
If the horse is riderless and wearing a bib number, then he is a fellow competitor. In that case, a clap on the rump and a "good job!" is in order.
6. Don't Sign Anything After Mile 20
As the race wears on, you'll be extremely fatigued and struggling to think clearly—i.e., lacking in judgment. If a strange man or woman appears before you on the trail, asking for your "John Hancock" on something, ignore the request—even if the stranger is dressed well, assures you that the document is just boilerplate, etc.—and report him or her at the next aid station.
7. Take Time to Say Hi to Race Mascot Besty McWesty
Western States is so named because of its longtime title sponsor, Best Western Hotels & Resorts. They're also the folks behind the event's beloved mascot, Besty McWesty. If you spot Besty on the course, say hello and rub his nose for good luck. Western States may be tough—but it should be fun, too!