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Gunhild Swanson and the 2015 Western States 100 – iRunFar


AJW's Taproom[Author’s Note: This is the fifth and final article in my five-part series on unforgettable moments in ultrarunning history. Read our introductory article on this series for a description of what, to me, makes a moment unforgettable.]

I used to be standing on the soccer area at Placer Excessive Faculty in Auburn, California, the place the Western States 100  finishes every year, at round 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, June 28, 2015, when a rumble unfold throughout the assembled crowd. Phrase had come from a mile and a half or so up the highway that one final runner had cleared Robie Level and was headed for the end line.

It was the waning moments of the occasion and Spokane, Washington’s Gunhild Swanson, on the age of 70, was trying to turn out to be the oldest feminine finisher within the historical past of the race. She was a few mile and a half from the ending monitor and had lower than quarter-hour to get there earlier than the 30-hour cutoff.

Up till this time within the proceedings, the 2015 Western States 100 had already been a memorable race. Flagstaff, Arizona’s Rob Krar had efficiently defended his 2014 win with a repeat win in an unbelievable time of 14:48, and Olympic marathoner and crowd favourite Magda Boulet, from Oakland, California, commandingly gained the ladies’s race in her 100-mile debut. However at this second, with lower than quarter-hour left within the Golden Hour, that magical last hour on the Western States 100, all eyes have been on the ticking clock and the destiny of 70-year-old Gunhild as she made her method by way of the streets of Auburn towards the end line.

Gunhild Swanson at Placer High track

Gunhild Swanson on the Placer Excessive Faculty monitor that day after ending the 2015 Western States 100. All pictures: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

All of us discovered later that, unbeknownst to the assembled plenty at the highschool monitor, Rob Krar and his accomplice, Christina Bauer, had wandered as much as Robie Level to cheer on the ultimate finishers. And, in the meanwhile Gunhild crested the hill and handed the signal marking the race’s 99th mile, Krar, who may barely stroll a second earlier than, jumped in alongside her. Carrying his flip-flops and trademark cowboy hat, he urged her towards the end. Taking a look at his watch, Krar did some fast math and realized they would wish to run a nine-minute mile to get to the end in time.

In the meantime, down at the highschool, a gentle stream of finishers circled the monitor en path to their finishes. 29:51, 29:52, 29:53 … the clock stored ticking, the finishers stored coming, and the group grew to become extra anxious. On the 29:57 mark, John Medinger, the voice of Western States and the monitor’s announcer, bellowed into the microphone, “If you’re inside the sound of my voice, you higher get shifting. Run such as you stole one thing.”

From my place on the infield, I rapidly jogged out by way of the gate and glanced 100 yards up the highway. There, within the midst of a giant crowd of about 20 folks, which included 25-time finisher Tim Twietmeyer and race winner Rob Krar, was 70-year-old Gunhild Swanson, sprinting down the highway. Her eyes have been glazed over and centered on the highway forward. She pumped her arms aggressively, barely noticing my blood-curdling screams as she ran by. When she entered the monitor the clock learn 29:59:10. With 250 meters to go, it was going to be painfully shut.

As Gunhild made her method down the again straight a roar got here up from the group. Up within the sales space, Medinger was on his ft egging Gunhild on to the end and an enormous scrum of race volunteers, spectators, and mates waited simply previous the end line. As Gunhild hit the ultimate flip, Krar, Twietmeyer, and a lot of the entourage peeled off — leaving Gunhild in her personal ache cave for the final 60 meters. When she crossed the road, the clock learn 29:59:54. With six seconds to spare, Gunhild grew to become the oldest feminine finisher within the storied historical past of Western States. And the place went completely bonkers.

Gunhild Swanson - 2015 Western States 100

Gunhild Swanson after ending the 2015 Western States 100 in 29:59:54, six seconds earlier than the race cutoff at 70 years of age.

In my life as an athlete and as a sports activities fan, I’ve seen many superb issues, each in particular person and on tv. Trying again on that unbelievable Sunday morning in June 2015, I can confidently say that I’ve by no means, ever seen one thing as extraordinary as Gunhild’s end. And I in all probability won’t ever see something prefer it once more.

Within the years which have adopted Gunhild’s historic end, the Golden Hour has taken on a lifetime of its personal and there have been shut calls yearly. That stated, nothing can match the 2015 Golden Hour. For me, and for a lot of who have been there, that day Gunhild captured lightning in a bottle, and I really feel honored and privileged to have witnessed it — the only most unforgettable second in ultrarunning.

Bottoms up!

Gunhild Swanson - 2015 Western States 100

The group celebrates after Gunhild Swanson completed the 2015 Western States 100. Picture: Ted Knudsen

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Gunhild Swanson’s hometown of Spokane, Washington. Lumberbeard Brewing makes some glorious brews, with none as delicious as the brand new Thunderskunk New England Fashion IPA. Hoppy and fruity, Thunderskunk actually bends the foundations for typical IPAs and does so unabashedly. Subsequent time you end up within the inland U.S. Pacific Northwest, a visit to Lumberbeard could be effectively price your time.

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