Tucson ultra runner Charlie Ware won his third golden ticket to the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run after taking second place at the Black Canyon 100K Ultra in the Bradshaw Mountains of Mayer, Arizona on Feb. 15. This is the 34-year-old’s fourth time racing in the prestigious international 100.2 mile trail-run through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
“Ever since I started (running) and heard of Western States, it was always like a pipe dream to go to that race,” Ware said.
Western States is a 100-mile run with a 24-hour time limit on former mining trails starting in Salt Lake City, Utah and ending in Sacramento, California. The competition is well known in the international running community for its difficulty to complete as well as its difficulty to enter due to its prestige and popularity.
“There’s two ways to get into Western States. You can enter the lottery and hope you get picked or you can win a golden ticket at one of the qualifying races. Only the top two finishers get a ticket,” Ware said. “With the lottery, I’ve heard stories of some people having to wait seven years just for their number to come up.”
There are 75 qualifying races worldwide to enter into Western States to encourage global diversity from the international running community, according to the race’s website.
At last year’s race, Ware finished the 100-mile trail run in 20 hours and seven minutes, his second best time on the course. He said the last 10 miles of the course got the best of him, which devastated his personal best time on the trial of 16 hours and 59 minutes in 2018.
“Last year was a pretty tough race,” Ware said. “I bonked pretty hard on mile 90 and ended up walking.”
Weather is one of the most challenging aspects to Western States, which takes place in late June, said Ware. He added that a runner’s time would be dependent on the summer heat during the late-June race.
“If it’s a hot year, you’re going to have a slower time than during a cool year,” Ware said. “I’m always racing by feel, not just time. My big goal this year is to get back into the top 10.”
Ware came in 8th place during the 2018 Western States competition when he finished a minute under 17 hours. While it was his fastest time on the course, Ware said he did “have some hiccups” that day, which affected his performance.
“It becomes really tricky to maintain your nutrition during (Western States),” Ware said. “You’ve got to keep your stomach settled and all these other factors have to line up for you to keep running for that long.”
Another challenging aspect of competing in Western States is that athletes are actually running at a steady pace for 100 miles.
“There’s no dialing back,’ he said.
Other trail runs, like the 62 mile Black Canyon Ultra, are not usually at the same pace, according to Ware.
“You’re running fairly hard for 100 miles,” Ware said. “It’s really a competitive running race that you can’t slow down.”
To prepare for a race of this magnitude, Ware said he trains on the weekends with 20- to 30-mile trail runs at Mount Lemmon, Sabino Canyon and Wasson Peak in the Tucson Mountains. During the weekdays, Ware said he prefers shorter runs on Tumamoc Hill.
“I love doing reps on Tumamoc. I like being a part of the scene there,” Ware said. “There’s always different walks of life climbing that mountain and it’s a different experience than being out there on a trail by yourself.”