In 2017, the last finisher to round the track at Western States was Karen Bonnett-Natraj. The crowd erupted in cheers as she entered the stadium, and everyone was on their feet glancing at their watches as if that would help Karen make it to the finish line under the 30-hour cutoff. With just 9 seconds to spare, she became the oldest finisher that year at age 61. The video of her dramatic, 100-mile journey finale has garnered over 24,000 views on YouTube. At 63 years old, Karen received the Silver Legend Entry for this year’s Western States 100 in honor of former race director, Greg Soderlund, and will also be going for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning: Old Dominion, Western States, Vermont 100 and Wasatch 100.
I was fortunate to share some miles with Karen at this year’s Canyons 100K, and she offered some wisdom. After her nail-biting finish in 2017, Karen said, “If I can do it, anyone can do it… you’ve got to keep going and whatever you do, never quit.” Her enthusiasm and optimism were infectious – she kept a bright smile on her face throughout the day as I passed her on the out-and-back portions of the course. Karen’s words and positive attitude kept bouncing around in my head, even towards the end of my race when the going got tough.
As many ramp up to their goal race of the year, it’s important to remember that while training, nutrition, gear and hydration are all major parts of succeeding in an ultra, so is attitude. Before your big race, take the time to remember that there will be moments where negative thoughts will creep into your head during a race. Acknowledge them and move on by remembering why you’re out there. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and there’s a great chance you will make it to the finish line.
In our At the Races issue, Ann Trason reminds us that we all need an ultra philosophy so that when we’re faced with obstacles we know what to do, on page 11. Ellie Greenwood lists some key points to consider if training hasn’t gone quite as you planned on page 16, while Jason Koop gives tips to those of us tapering for an upcoming race and reminds us not to get too greedy with our running in the weeks prior, on page 14 . Donald Buraglio also covers the latest in summer running apparel from top brands like rabbit and Patagonia on page 34. Rocket Rants returns with another dose of tough love and the question, “Who’s Your Daddy?” on page 77.
Our publisher and former editor, Karl Hoagland, finished his 10th Western States 100 in 2018 and penned a retrospective that fondly reminisces about 10 years of his time on the course, while looking back at his approach and the lessons he learned, on page 28.
As race season unfolds, plans will change. The snow will either melt or it won’t, but as Western States Race Director, Craig Thornley put it, “Just get through it.” Ultrarunning is a sport that requires constant surveillance of our surroundings as well as our body, for hours on end. Plans will change and so will your race, but your ability to keep a positive attitude and push forward to the finish is key. Like Karen said, if she can do it, so can you.