I’ve always just looked at 100 miles as life in a day. You have all the trials and tribulations of a life in one day.
– Ann Trason
‘Legendary’ is a grossly overused word these days, but in some distinct cases, it’s hard to come up with an adequate substitute. Ann Trason is one of them. Considered one of the best ultramarathoners in running history, she’s had 14 wins at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run (WS 100) apart from setting some incredible course records. These include the California’s American River 50 (1993), Colorado’s Leadville Trail 100 (1994), Utah’s Wasatch Front 100 (1997), and a host of others titles that seem unbelievable for one person to achieve.
A runner since school, Trason’s ultra-running career took off at the challenging American River 50 Miler, where she not just won but also set a course record at the age of 24. Eight years later, she was to return to the same race and established another course record (06:09:08)—one that still holds today.
“My dad took me when I was a preteen to a track practice because I had a lot of energy and there weren’t a lot of sports for girls. They started an all-girls program. It was incredible. It really affected my life,” she is quoted as saying in Runner’s World. Though recurring knee injuries kept Trason from participating in college athletics and regular training, it was the Western States course that really cemented her relationship to the sport. The trails were her home and her boundless energy had met its match.
In 1988, while on holiday in the south of France, Trason signed up for the World 100K at the very last minute and went on to make a lasting impression on the world. She finished 21st overall, in a new women’s world best of 7:30:49. This was followed by a number of escalating victories on the national 100K circuit, including the 24 Hour championships and the Edmund Fitzgerald 100K at Duluth. 1990 was a truly glorious year for her as she set new state records at Western States and Leadville both, the first few of many.
Trason’s appetite for ultras was voracious. “Running was the principal focus of her life. She trained hard, and competed harder. She was, in one word, fierce,” believed John Medinger, the publisher of UltraRunning magazine. Through the 90s and 2000s, Ann raced and gathered accolades across the USA and Europe—including consecutive wins at the challenging Comrades race in 1996 and 1997. Incidentally, both these wins were followed by her winning the Western States Endurance, which took place a mere 12 days later.
It was during and after this time that Ann started facing recurring injuries and foot issues that caused her to retreat midway from a few races and call off participating in others. In the World 100K at Winschoten in 1997, she began marvelously as she has two years ago, but had to pull out after 20K. She also withdrew from the 1999 Comrades race and the Spartathlon in Athens but went on to run the Western States up to 2003. During the 2000s, Ann and her partner Carl Andersen co-directed the Dick Collins Firetrail 50—Ann had set a record here too in 1987, the only time she ran it.
Ann retired from running and took to cycling for over 10 years—she confesses to being a ‘gym rat’ who loves to exercise. Despite having a course record that few others can match up to, she’s known to be media shy and reluctant to discuss her wins. She can’t however, withhold her affection for the sport that gave her life’s purpose; Ann coaches middle school girls and also dispenses online wisdom to those who are looking to ultrarunning for answers to life’s quandaries.
Main image: Jill Homer | The Guardian