The same thing happened in 2013. And 2014. And 2015, and 2016, and 2017, and (against all odds!) 2018.
In 2019, Pon finally won an entry to the 2020 Western States. Then a pandemic happened, the race was postponed for one year, and he was forced to wait even longer to participate in his dream race.
Partially for this reason, seeing Pon on the startling line early Saturday morning felt both surreal and inevitable. The opportunity to run 100 miles across the Sierra Nevada was the culmination of nearly a full decade of his preparation, patience, perseverence, and hope.
Somewhat poetically, 2021 proved to be an especially brutal year for the event, with high temperatures cracking triple digits and many seasoned performers joining the DNF list as a consequence. This didn’t stop Ashland, Oregon native Pon from defying conditions and achieving his dream of completing the historic race. His wife Angela and adoring crew escorted him the final mile to the finish line at the Placer High School track. It was a beautiful display of determination, will, and community.
West Coast Runner is a photo journal dedicated to chronicling the lifestyle of sub-elite athletes from California, Oregon, and Washington–so, while I had the honor of taking photos of all events at the meet, here I will focus on just representing the experience of a couple of those athletes. I will also be posting my favorite photos from the rest of the meet on my Instagram page.
May 1, 2021. 5:20pm. Leavenworth, Kansas.
As former high school rivals from the Northern California circuit, current training partners Annie and Bridget could never have predicted that life would take them to a track meet together in small town Kansas, but life—like running—is full of surprises.
This weekend Trials of Miles and Citius Mag invited some of track & field’s finest rising stars to America’s heartland to chase dreams and time standards on a balmy evening evocative of summer. Heading into the developmental heat of the women’s 5000m, Annie and Bridget’s feelings were marked by gratitude: Gratitude for a long-awaited racing opportunity, gratitude for the capacity to fly across the country from their homes in San Francisco to the event, and–importantly–gratitude for the ability to do so together.
Of course, however, the weather gods don’t give a damn about gratitude. At close to 80 degrees with 20 mile per hour wind gusts, personal records weren’t in the cards for the afternoon session at the track meet. Nonetheless, Annie and Bridget were mostly satisfied with competitive finishes that suggested highly promising results in better conditions.
Sometimes in this sport that’s all we can ask for.
Friendship. Laughter. Drills. Getting kicked off of a middle school track because an eighth grade PE class is starting.
These are the things that pre-meet routines are made of.
Away from California for the first time since before the pandemic, Annie and Bridget are still acclimating to the wholesome culture and wide open spaces of the Wheat State. But they’re 100% ready for the developmental 5000m at Trials of Miles and Citius Mag‘s Kansas Qualifier tomorrow.