Trail Champ profile: Ann Trason

Born in 1960, Trason is an American ultramarathon runner from California. Her racing career spanned two decades, and during that time she smashed 20 world records.

She’s most well known for her dominance of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, said to be amongst the world’s toughest ultramarathons for its extreme temperatures and an infamous 526m climb at the 74km mark. Interestingly, she didn’t finish her first two attempts at the race – in 1987 she dropped out because of knee problems, and the following year from dehydration. But in 1989 she finished and won, and did so for the next 9 years. She has won Western States 14 times in all, most recently in 2003, and still holds the women’s course record of 17:37:51, which she set in 1994.

Trason’s obsession with the Western States 100-Miler was born from her passion for trails: “I just immediately fell in love with it. I’ve always felt protected by trails – all trails, but Western States in particular.” (Trason, 2001)

Inspired by Alberto Salazar’s Comrades Marathon victory in 1994, Trason attempted her first Comrades in 1995 but withdrew at Drummond, suffering the effects of a viral infection. Said to be devastated and embarrassed by her “failure”, she returned in 1996 and won Comrades, setting a new record for the up run (6:13:23) – a time that would only be broken 10 years later by Elana Nurgalieva.

Then, just 12 days after her ’96 Comrades victory, she travelled halfway around the world and crossed nine time zones to score her 8th Western States win.

She did the same the following year: despite surgery on a persistent hamstring injury in November 1996, followed by a strict three months of recuperation and rehab, she returned to competition in May 1997 and repeated her Comrades victory of the year before in just 5:58. Her win made her the second woman ever to finish in under 6:00, just four minutes outside Frith van der Merwe’s course record.

And then again, just 12 days later, she scooped another Western States win.

In 1998 Trason established another landmark – she won five 100-mile trail races in 14 weeks: in June, the Western States in 18:46; in July, the Vermont 160km Endurance Run in 17:11; in August, the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Race in 20:58; and in September and October, the Wasatch and Arkansas 100-Mile Runs, thereby winning the Grand Slam of ultrarunning.

Course records
6:09:08 – American River 50 mile
6:13:23 – Comrades Marathon 90km
3:59:32 – Cool Canyon Crawl 50km
7:31:24 – Firetrails 50 mile (1987)
6:13:54 – Hunter Thompson 50 mile
18:06:24 – Leadville Trail 100 women's record (3rd overall in 1994)
8:55:49 – Miwok 100km Trail Race (2001)
6:43:00 – Quicksilver 50 mile
7:29:36 – Silver State 50 mile
22:27:10 – Wasatch Front 100 mile
17:37:51 – Western States 100 mile (1994)
7:00:47 – World 100km (1995)

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