For the first 93 miles of last weekend’s Western States 100, 26-year-old Jim Walmsley was on pace to shatter the course record. Spectators following Walmsley’s progress—both along the trail in Northern California and via social media—were dumbfounded: Western States is considered one of the most competitive ultras in the world, and this was Walmsley’s first-ever 100-mile race. Then, just seven miles from the finish, he disappeared.
For well over an hour, an eternity even by ultrarunning standards, the Flagstaff native was nowhere to be found. Walmsley had missed a tight left turn and veered well off course. A crew of photographers finally spotted him lying on the 105-degree pavement of Highway 49. He’d given up the record, the lead, and, realistically, any chance of a top 10 finish.
Whereas some might have thrown in the towel, Walmsley zombie-walked his way back to the course and, eventually, to the finish line. We had the chance to talk with Walmsley to get an inside look at how it all unfolded.
Photo: Three weeks before the race, Walmsley left his home in Flagstaff, Arizona, to attend the Mountain Pulse Running Camp in Lake Tahoe, California. “I was coming off of by far the biggest and best training of my life, including back-to-back 140-mile weeks. My time in Tahoe was really great for sharpening the saw and just dialing in everything I’d need for a good race.”