Operation "Get Local Qualifier"
I'm Libby Jones, the Race Director for Dinosaur Valley Endurance Run and the owner of The Active Joe. I've loved the Western States Endurance Run since volunteering at the river crossing at mile 78 in 2012, standing in the river all night in a wetsuit helping runners across on their journey to the track in Auburn. I came back to be a crew chief for a Dallas runner the next year, and then I asked the race if they needed sponsors for their great non-profit organization. Now it's fun to look back at 8 years of sponsorship of Western States. That's 8 athletes we've sponsored to run the race, of which half of them have been local Dallas-Fort Worth area runners.
This year I was able to attend the lottery again and pick names from the hopper on the stage. It's such a fun thing to be involved in all the energy of that moment. 6,208 people in this lottery, of which 221 of them were from Texas. Funny enough, I ended up pulling 2 Texas names in the 15 I was able to pull. I really enjoy the time speaking with board members and local runners and getting to know some of the runners better who are hoping to get into the race. When I was home from such a wonderful weekend of seeing old friends and making new ones, that feeling I've had for years creeped back in, which I'll describe in a second, and I feel like I'm now in a position that I can solidly help contribute the work toward it.
As long as I've loved Western States, there have been only 2 qualifying races in Texas for the race. For 2022, there is now an additional qualifier. All 3 are great, well-attended events, however, in a VERY big state, it continues to leave North Texas without a qualifier within a reasonable drive. The 3 qualifiers are all to the south and about 4-5.5 hour drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area. To add more context, Oklahoma has no qualifiers and Arkansas has one with Arkansas Traveler, which again is about 5 hours from Dallas-Fort Worth.
We have a vibrant and very active trailrunning and ultramarathon running community in North Texas. There are numerous trailrunning clubs, including Dallas Dirt Runners, Team Dirt and Vert, Denton Area Running Club, and more, just within the metroplex. And the broader area of North Texas and up through Oklahoma have more great running groups. We have more hills than non-locals realize, we use our hot summers to get similar adaptations to altitude exposure to prep for mountain racing, and so many runners dream and train for Western States and other races in our local area. So for several years, I've maintained that I feel our community is very deserving of having a qualifier for the Western States Endurance Run.
Meanwhile, Dinosaur Valley Endurance Run has been growing the last couple years, culminating in a really high energy at our race this November and high finish rates for this technical, hilly course (69% in the 100 Miler, 82% in the 100K). While selling out early both of the last two years, we still experienced a 16% increase in participation each year! We are now almost double the size we were back in 2017!
The only factor in becoming a Western States qualifier in the 100 mile distance is the number of finishers, and the line in the sand seems to be a little over 100 finishers. Therefore, I'm making it a goal for Dinosaur Valley to grow to a place where our community is rewarded with this qualifier. And for me personally, it would bring two things I love, Dino Valley 100 and Western States 100, into a really amazing association.
To help accomplish this, we'll need the energy felt at the race in 2021 to continue into 2022, where running groups participated, crewed, paced, and gave their hearts even further by volunteering. We also need our running community to continue to dream big and encourage others to do the same in a healthy way! 56% of the 100 mile finishers this year showed that this can be a successful first 100!
What I will do to help us all accomplish this is (1) to continue to produce a solid event and (2) provide incentives to runners to sign up for the 100 miler. Registration will open Monday, December 13, at 8 pm for ONLY the 100 miler. And it will be an entry fee that should probably be classified as a crime - $75 for a 100 miler until January 1. Committing early will help more people work towards the goal 11 months from now. But I'm also removing the $5 administrative fee for downgrades if a runner later realizes they need to downgrade. Additionally, this year I'm going to begin allowing midrace dropdowns to still receive an official result and the next closest buckle / finisher medal they would be eligible for.
Registration for the other race distances will open January 3. If at any time, a runner decides they want to up their challenge and take on the 100 miler, they will only pay 80% of the difference between the entry fees!
Let's work together to ensure North Texas has a place on Western States radar in all future years by showing them how our trail community shows up, how we are excited for the sport of ultramarathon running in a big way, and how we want to have a spot in the qualifiers for their event!