Solheim completes Western States

Posted on July 6, 2007 by


Glendale’s Karsten Solheim literally has miles and miles to go between races. However, the 70-year-old runner is enjoying every moment of each event.

Solheim completed the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run June 23 and 24, stretching from Squaw Valley, Calif. to Auburn, Calif., in 29 hours, 57 minutes and 38 seconds, to finish first in his age category. It was made all the more impressive because he was the only 70-year-old male entered in the race. Ages ranged from 19 up to 70.

For the record, Oregon runner Hal Koerner was the overall winner in 16:12:16.

A total of 270 runners finished the grueling race out of the 392 starters, thanks to the temperature, Solheim said.

“There were a higher percentage of finishers because it was cooler,” he said. “Last year was hotter and they had way under 200 finishers,” he said. “It was not one of my better times, but I’m getting older.”

Solheim has always participated in sports, but he did not begin running until he was his in his 40s.

“I was almost 46 and God had been working on me to develop better habits,” he said. “I asked my brother to be my coach because he’s an avid marathoner.”

While his brother regularly runs the Boston Marathon, Karsten Solheim ran in the Boston Marathon from 1986 to 1991. Karsten’s best time in the event was 3:10:30.

“Just over three hours is a pretty decent time and I was 49 years old at the time,” Karsten said.

Finishing as the oldest runner at Western States was a benefit, Solheim said.

“I’ve had many people tell me how much of an encouragement this is and it keeps me going to encourage others,” he said. “We are all God’s creation and we need to be able to free our minds and let God’s creation accomplish what it can accomplish.”

Solheim has been running the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run for 13 years, off and on, and said his best time was 25:51.0, when he first ran the race in 1990.

“I did it twice in my 50s and I’ve run it for 11 years in a row,” he said. “It was hilly with 18,000 feet of elevation gain and 23,000 feet of descent.”

The race was originated in 1974, when race veteran Gordon Ainsleigh joined a party of five horsemen (which later became the Western State Trail Foundation) to see if he could complete the race on foot and cover 100 miles in one day. Ainsleigh made it in 23 hours, 42 minutes.

Whatever the history, Solheim is glad for what the race has to offer.

“There are 25 aid stations and nine places for drop bags with your own supplies, such as clothes and food,” he said. “There are 13,000 volunteers, three to four a runner, doctors, nurses and podiatrists.’

Finishing the race is a discipline, but making sure you get to designated stops along the course is a must, Solheim said.

“There are cut off times because they don’t want volunteers waiting forever for runners who have to get there by a certain point and time,” he said.

For instance, if you have to reach a cut off point by 10 a.m. and you miss it by arriving at 10:03 a.m., you will not be penalized, but you will not get help, he said.

“I didn’t finish once out of 13 tries,” he said. “Once because I had a bad attitude and I went 85 miles and missed the cut off time by six minutes,” he said. “They don’t allow you to continue. That’s it. Meeting the cut off time is part of the requirement for finishing the course.”

The Western States run was just one of four 100-mile competitive races this summer for Solheim. He will be competing in the Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run July 21 and 22; the Leadville (Colo.) Trail 100-Mile Run Aug. 18 and 19, or the Race Across the Sky, since the lowest elevation point is 9,200 feet and the highest point is 12,600 feet. The fourth run is Sept. 8 and 9, the Wasatch (Utah) Front 100-Mile Endurance Run.

“I’ve never done a grand slam before and I decided last year I wanted to try it,” he said. “I didn’t realize how young the people were, but I decided to go for it.

“When I found out the oldest person was 66, I thought I’d better not wait, so I signed up for it.”

Finishing all four races is the idea, Solheim said, but times will be accumulated by race officials to see who the fastest runner will be.

No matter the race, Solheim said there is something to take away every time.

“I’ve learned a lot of life examples,” he said. “I stay fit and that keeps me motivated and I believe when God created us, he made us a complete person, and exercise is part of being vital.”

With additional miles ahead of him this summer and the ones he has left behind, Solheim is eager to meet life’s challenges.