Western States was an incredibly inspiring race experience. From pacing and crewing Andrew to a finish, to seeing many of my friends out there battling through the heat, the late night / early morning hours…the fight to the finish was real and amazing.
And while I cheered my little heart out (and got all choked up) when Andrew crossed the finish, the loudest cheers at the finish line were for for 70-year-old Gunhild Swanson. We were hanging out in the grass when we decided maybe we should line up along the track to see the last several racers finish. We were getting close to the 30 hour mark and we saw a male runner with his crew coming round the track. Everyone was cheering and yelling, telling him to keep going. When he finished, he had minutes to spare, but not many.
And then just 90 seconds before the 30-hour cutoff time with almost half a lap left to go, the most inspiring and amazing finish I have ever seen was from Gunhild Swanson, a 70 year old woman.
Gunhild was accompanied by her pacer (her son) and crew (friends and grandson) as she ran around the track, literally racing the clock. She became the oldest woman to finish Western States with a time of 29 hours, 59 minutes, and 54 seconds. She crossed the finish line with a mere 6 seconds to spare..it was unreal. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.
Apparently she knew she was getting pretty close to the cutoff and volunteers were pouring water on her to cool her off. She was told to run as fast as she possibly could and that when she got to the track, she’d have to keep it consistent and not let up on her pace.
And she didn’t let up. She circled the track with the roar of the crowd and finished. And I just can’t get over it. Every time I think about it, I get all choked up. It was nothing short of amazing.
Gunhild, if you’re reading this, thanks for inspiring me. You rock!
Stay sweaty friends!