Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Finishers at Western States

In fact, no starters. The race has been cancelled this year due to the forest fires in the surrounding area. There are over 800 forest fires in California with more than 300 in northern CA alone. A couple of fires have the potential of reaching key location on the race course by the weekend - in particular, the Westville Fire has the potential of reaching the Foresthill Divide Road and the Peavine Fire could reach Last Chance and Mosquito Ridge Road. This would put runners, crews, volunteers and spectators at risk. In addition, given all the smoke and pollutants in the air, the air quality has deteriorated significantly. This prompted Placer County Pollution Control District officials to issue a warning advising individuals to reduce exposure to unhealthy air and avoid vigorous outdoor activities. I'd say a 100 mile trail run qualifies as vigorous outdoor activity.

The cancellation of Western States is unfortunate given the competitive field that was slated to participate this year. In addition, it negates any Grand Slam or Last Great Race efforts. However, this is definitely the right call by the Race Committee. The safety and well being of folks has to be the #1 priority. I am sure the Committee agonized with this decision but in the end had to go with a no risk option. You can read the full text of the official announcement here. Both Karl Meltzer and Andy Jones-Wilkins have written on their blogs about the decision. Bottom line is the Committee made the right call and we should all move on. One thing I am curious about is the entry fees are non-refundable and at $300 a pop, that is a decent amount of cash (about $120,000). The race no doubt has incurred expenses that cannot be recouped but it seems like they could donate at least a portion of the money to help with efforts to battle the fires or to assist in rejuvenating burned areas after the fire. Just a thought.

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