For an old runner, a time to stop

There is a moment when we all must pass the torch and it is no different for a man who created the Western States 100, the world’s oldest trail run.

In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh wanted to prove that a human could run the 100-mile trail — Tahoe to Auburn, Calif. — in one day, just as the horses had been doing in an annual event since 1955. He did, running for nearly 24-hours.

He was a young man then. He’s an old man — 70 — now.

Getting into the race is hard. You have to have a qualifying time. And the Forest Service only allows 369 slots. Last year, 3,510 runners tried to win the lottery to allow them in.

“Gordy has been allowed to race every year as the race founder,” NewsCut friend Matt Lutz tells me. Matt has qualified for the race but has never won the lottery to get in.

“I would like to die out on the trail,” Ainsleigh tells Deadspin.

Though Ainsleigh hasn’t finished the race in several years, he still gets an automatic spot if he can qualify. A social media campaign — #LetGordyRun — might have influenced the race committee’s decision to make it easier for him to qualify in recent years, and run his race at the expense of someone else.

That “someone else” includes John Fegyveresi, of Quechee, Vt., who has qualified and been in the lottery for six years, and for six years, he’s been shut out of a dream.

He flew to California just in case, Lutz says.

And when officials were set to finalize the entry list on Friday, he says, the old man passed the torch to the young man, giving up his spot to Feyveresi, who realized his dream this morning at 5 a.m.

For Gordy, the race is over.

Related: Running 100 Miles Is Easier Now: A Talk With The Father of Ultra Trailrunning (Deadspin)

  • Matt

    Thanks Bob!

  • Jeff R.

    I was talking about this race with a friend of mine a few years ago (a marathon runner 26.2) and when he got to mile 90 and still had gas in his tank, he started “sprinting”, passing a hundred people and coming in 5th place.

  • Barton

    A great story. Thank you!