Roommates Walmsley, Hazen post two fastest times ever at Western States | SierraSun.com

Roommates Walmsley, Hazen post two fastest times ever at Western States

Jim Walmsley runs during the 2019 Western States. Walmsley broke his own course record, finishing the race with a time of 14:09:28.
Courtesy of Luis Ecobar

In the high desert of Flagstaff, Arizona, resides a pair of roommates and best friends who are among the best endurance athletes in the world.

Jim Walmsley, 29, and Jared Hazen, 24, proved as much on Saturday at one of ultrarunning’s marquee events, the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, by posting the two fastest times in course history.

“We just really elevate each other,” said Hazen during a post-race interview. “We train really hard. We take it very seriously. This is the major part of our lives and we totally keep each other accountable. You just can’t slack off when you’re racing a guy like that.”

Conditions were close to ideal for fast times at this year’s race. Snow and ice on early portions of the route may have slowed the field a little, but as runners descended from Squaw Valley to the more difficult sections of the race, they were met with cool weather and cloudy skies for much of the day.

“This is my fourth year in a row here, and the first time the temperature has gone down,” said Walmsley in his post-race interview. “Every year’s it’s been like 93, 95, 98 (degrees) I think, and then finally it’s not a scorching hot day.

“That’s where the stars need to align a little bit. You’ve just gotta put yourself in a position and take advantage of it. And then have your best friend be a badass and push you all day.”

Walmsley set the course record a year ago with a time of 14 hours, 30 minutes, 4 seconds. This year, with Hazen pushing him across nearly the entirety of the 100.2-mile course, he again broke the record, finishing with a time of 14:09:28.

“Oh my gosh, I’ve been running scared all day,” said Walmsley following the race.

Hazen crossed the finish line shortly after with a time of 14:26:46, which put the two fastest times ever at the original 100-mile race under one roof.

“I said before the race that I wanted to give myself a chance to win and I did that for as long as I could, and I paid for it a bit at the end, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” said Hazen. “Jim was just always eight to 10 minutes ahead, and that was plenty of motivation to keep grinding and keep hammering as hard as I could.”

The two runners arrived at the first checkpoint, Lyons Ridge at 10.3 miles into the race, trailing a handful of other runners. From there, Walmsley took over, reaching the next checkpoint roughly five miles later in first place. During the next 84 miles he’d be the first to every checkpoint before reaching the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn.

“It was a big goal just to come here and try to win,” said Walmsley. “It’s one thing to pull off a win at Western States. It’s just basically a once-and-a-lifetime thing, and then to do it twice … it’s pretty surreal. It was really, I guess, (I) earned it today it felt like.”

Hazen moved into second place at Duncan Canyon, which is 24.4 miles into the race, and would maintain that position for the rest of the day to claim a runner-up finish, topping last year’s course record by more than three minutes.

“I was kind of yo-yoing the last 20 miles of having some good stretches and some bad stretches and I didn’t close particularly strong,” said Hazen. “But I was hanging in there.

“It’s just so good to be back here. One of these years is going to be my time to win this race, and that’s super exciting.”

With back-to-back wins at Western States, Walmsley becomes the tenth runner in the history of the men’s division to successfully defend his title.

“There will be a lot of trash talking about this one,” joked Walmsley about beating his roommate. “But definitely, just one of my best friends, and I couldn’t ask for anyone else to be pushing me today … It just makes it so much more special. Just in Flagstaff in general, we’ve got a really good group of guys.”

Tom Evans, of Heathfield, Great Britain, finished in third place with a time of 14:59:44. Matt Daniels, 31, of Boulder, Colorado, was fourth place, finishing with a time of 15:21:36; followed by Mark Hammond, 34, of Millcreek, Utah, with a time of 15:36:12.

On the women’s side, Clare Gallagher, 27, of Boulder, Colorado, captured first place with a time of 17:23:25. Brittany Peterson, 33, of Pocatello, Idaho, was second place with a time of 17:34:29. Kaci Lickteig, 32, of Omaha Nebraska, won the race in 2016, and finished in third place this year with a time of 17:55:55. Beth Pascall, 31, of Belper, Great Britain, was fourth, crossing the finish line with a time of 18:06:51. Camelia Mayfield, 27, of Bend, Oregon, was fifth place with a time of 18:13:31.

Truckee’s Gretchen Brugman, 45, finished 33rd with a time of 26:59:47. It’s the second time Brugman has completed the race. South Lake Tahoe’s Amber Weibel, 41, finished in 14th place with a time of 21:13:19. Also from South Lake Tahoe, Francesca Stone, 57, was 53rd with a time of 29:24:10.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.