It’s a week on from Western States 2017, and
yet still we’re seeing articles focusing on the guy who didn’t win the race. I’m
flummoxed. Anyone would think this was the first time in running history a race
favourite didn’t end up the race winner!
Surely the answer is simple? He didn’t win
because he wasn’t the fastest on the day. That’s a fact no one can deny. But
then why is it so difficult for the US media to understand?
And the thing is, it’s not as if the guy
was pipped at the post, or lost the race by a few minutes. No, Jim Walmsley
didn’t only not win; he didn’t feature at all in the final quarter of the event
– in fact, he didn’t even finish the race.
Many factors matter on race day and help
the lead runner to a win. Careful strategising and management of race plan,
effective nutrition, disciplined pacing, attentive navigation and constant
mental strength are just some of the many ingredients that make a winner. All
these, of course, being the culmination of months, if not years, of dedicated
physical preparation and dedication to become what it takes to even have hopes
of featuring in the top percentage of a race – any race.
There’re always elites who don’t win when
expected to. Take, for instance, Scott Jurek’s second place at Leadville in
2004, the then twice winner of UTMB Lizzy Hawker when she came second at UTMB in
2009, and even the great Kilian Jornet at Hardrock last year and Transvulcania
in 2014. That’s just the way winning, and losing, rolls – it’s all about who is
best on the day.
The thing is, when these runners didn’t win
in those races, they still featured in the top 5 placings, which meant they
warranted significant post-race media coverage. What’s puzzling me is the media’s
preoccupation with why Jim Walmsley did not win at Western States.
Am I missing something here?
This guy is fast, sure. But it’s not as if
he’s won this race before and was hoping for a comeback. He has never won this
race! He didn’t win it last year, and he didn’t win it this year. Get over it,
folks. He wasn’t the only race hopeful who didn’t take the finish tape.
The thing is, he didn’t only not win… did I mention, he didn’t even finish?
It’s simple: he blasted off way too fast,
and he blew – spectacularly.
He’s not the first to have made such a
rookie mistake, or to suffer the heat.
Runner’s World <read article here> refers to his
taking off at a “torrid pace, running into ice, snow and deep mud within the first
20 miles, then coping with triple-digit heat. Even when conditions started
taking a toll, he didn’t slow his pace to something more sustainable.”
Well, yes. There you have it, in a
nutshell. Every participant endured those same conditions, he was not unique.
Nor was he a novice to this race. He should’ve known better. Perhaps with a
little more respect for the race, he would’ve tackled the day a little more
wisely, like the race winner did.
In my opinion, too much pre-race hype
around this man – who is elite level, yes, but one of many – distorted the
reality: that there were many others on the day who approached the race far
more wisely, making them better equipped to conquer the race.
Perhaps a touch of humility might be
something this talented runner could benefit from in his approach to racing.
His pre-race confidence and his ambitious goal to not only take the win but
smash the course record may have been viewed as bold, and his self-belief commendable,
but many would question whether he was even qualified to have such an audacious
goal. After all, as I’ve already said, it’s not as if he’s won this race before.
Perhaps aiming for a race win first, would be more appropriate, before
loudmouthing about an intention to smash the course record?
longer people try to go with me, they’re going to get dropped at some point…”
love the heat – it gives me an astronomical advantage.”
goal is to run the fastest 100 miles at Western States ever.”
Not to labour the point too much, but blasting off at blistering
pace is not something that should impress anyone, unless that pace is
sustainable. Clearly Walmsley’s pace was not, particularly for a 100 miler.
Personally, with a race like Western States, UTMB, Grand Raid de Réunion or
any of the other notably challenging big-name 100 milers out there, I only
start e-watching the front runners with any seriousness from about the 120km
mark. Anyone worth their salty sweat will know the race only truly starts at
Oh how oft over-confidence comes before a
Labels: iRunFar, Jim Walmsley, Runner's World, Western States, WS100