The Western States Endurance run is one of the oldest and most legendary races in the world. Anything can happen: from 1st place to ‘did not fisnish’, it’s all possible. Total distance is 100 miles with 5000m uphill and 8000m downhill. My name is Florian Neuschwander. I am 37 years old and I’m an ultra marathon runner. Why do I run? It’s a passion of mine, ever since I was struck with the running bug I have always needed it. It’s part of my life. Without running, nothing would work for me. I realised early on that long distance running was right for me. I have done a few ultras in the past notably the Wings for Life World Run which I won twice in Germany; one in Darmstadt and then Munich. I also won the Sean O’Brian100k in Malibu in February. It was fun. The Western States is definitely the next level. It’s a whole new challenge for me. I see myself as a rookie, I have zero experience in attempting my first 100 miler. Of course, these are super experienced 100-mile runners who have 10 or more races in their legs So I have no idea what to expect. The guys know what they are doing, as they are the elite in the world and it will not be easy for me to keep up with them. I’m curious to see how it goes. Western States ist das Epizentrum des Ultrarunnings It´s just such a unique event and the community is such a part of the event, like you do Western States once and it´s in your blood, you just want to keep coming back. And on top of it, it´s one of the most competitive ultra-trail races in the world. There are different challenges on the way, early it’s altitude and the rocky trail and the steepness, in the middle it´s really steep and then in the end it´s a little flatter, but that´s when everyone is the most tiered. It really forces people to push their body well beyond what they generally think is possible. I was in first place at the top of Escarpment. I did not plan on leading, but I can’t do powerhiking, so my only choice was to jog up. I just did my thing and it felt good. At the top I felt relaxed and then Jim Walmsley, Erik Clavery and Francoise D’Haene overtook me, we high-fived, I said “Go for it guys!”. I then settled into my rhythm. Western States kind of started out as my first big ultra that I want to take a swing at, especially at the 100-Mile distance and so far it´s just still on the bucket list. Waiting to finish even well I would say. If just one of these magical days is happening. I feel as ready as I have ever been. So, I think it will be a good day today. I fell twice… that was shit At Duncan Canyon Stop everything was ok. After 40km it all felt good, then the shit hit the fan! I started to stumble where it started to get more technical. This is not my strongest area. At KM 50 the first thought it was all over. But somehow with the help of my crew and thinking of the family back home I thought: “hey, you’ve not come all this way to give up, that’s not me. I have to go on!” Between Duncan Canyon and Robinson Flat the going was tough, I just hiked and then crashed five times. The battery seemed to be flat but now it’s back again… keep going, KEEP GOING FLO! Yeah, I have a lot of experience in ultra-trail. But here it´s totally different. That´s why I am here. That´s why it´s the biggest challenge for me and I think there are some other runners are really well-prepared, they know how to run in the heat. They know how to run in this kind of trail and not me. For your first 100-miler, I think the biggest challenge is to achieve it and to finish it. I keep going. I just cried between Robinson Flat and here. You don’t even know how fast you can catch up again. Sun Screen on the arms please Ahh cold – you need to be cold! I am now 9 hours and 40 minutes in. The longest I have ever done was 9 hours and 15 minutes. I have never been running for this long. Neuschwander is biting the dust. I am so done. YES! Preparation for the Western States actually began in October, November with a lot of altitude and long winter runs which I don’t normally do. Here I am on the Feldberg and my face is frozen. Man it’s cold! I can’t feel my right butt cheek anymore. I can barely talk. What is going on here? The Taunus is where I do most of my running, but the Alps are very different to the Western States. To finish a 100 mile race you need to go out and train a lot but it must still be fun. A combination of hard training and fun is important. Faster faster faster faster… duck your head Downhill Baby The Loon It’s not the heat that really bothers me, it’s actually ok. The brutal part are the downhills in the canyons. Man, that destroys your thighs and they hurt so much! I hate f**king downhills! Flo, I’m telling you the guys up at the front don’t look any better I’m still going.. saving energy man, it’s so tough. You can’t even imagine. I don’t even remember what I’m doing here, I got paranoid. I even thought a Quokka would come and attack me from behind. I got really scared. Reaching my pacesetter Mo at about 100km was great. We high-fived and then he got me motivated again. You made up time. Even though you feel like you’re slowing down, you can still catch up. Do you want a Red Bull? Ice under the cap is good. Got that already. Im still here. I think I have enough. Hey, what are you doing? We still have 60km to go with a 1,500m climb. The terrain will favour Flo and he can make up some places. We are currently in 25th place but if he continues to run hard and I continue to push him I think we could make the top 10. The toughest part of Western States is definitely the heat. It´s just brutal. It gets so hot in the canyon. The best way to describe it, is kind of turn your oven on and go and sit in your oven for a couple of hours. That´s what it´s like and you have to try and run and run 100 Miles. It´s really tough. I told you we were going to come back and get you. Let´s go get that German! This is where a lot of people meet and it feels quite familiar. You meet people on track that you know somehow and talk briefly, if you manage to past someone it also motivates you. This is what makes ultrarunning special. Jim Walmsley is the absolute best here. It’s amazing how he can just fly over the whole trail. It was definitely a bit of magic out there. As I was going I just felt momentum kind of building and I was clipping a couple of minutes here and there off of every split. And they start adding up eventually and before, you know it, I gave myself a shot and was able to bring it home in close. No one else can run this time. Only Jim himself can improve on it. It´s a super special moment and I feel like it gives me a little peace with the race right now. I cried and cried. I stopped five times. Mo helped pushed me on. My kneecaps feel like they are going to pop out. This has been the longest hiking day of my life. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. Man, I’m going to push through! I never thought a race as long as this would come down to mental strength. In the end, it’s the head that decides. I wanted to look good in those last 300 metres. It’s been the toughest run I have ever done. Just finishing has been a success for me. Even Jim Walmsley who just destroyed the course on his third attempt had two really tough races here. For Flo to come out here and start of strong and have the race that he did.
He had a really hard time out there, that´s where we really grow as human beings. You can see that in people’s eyes when they cross the line. You know, that they know something about themselves that the rest of us might not, or we haven´t really explored.