With an impressive sub-24 hour finish and prestigious silver belt buckle award in The Western States Endurance Run just two weeks earlier, David Ploskonka’s confidence was high. The Western States Endurance Run, commonly known as The Western States 100, pits runners against the clock, racing day and night along a grueling 100-mile course in California’s Sierra Nevada, over a cumulative total of 18,000 feet of climbing and 23,000 feet of descending on mountain trails before reaching the finish.
When David jogged up to the starting line at the Badwater Basin parking lot just a few minutes before 10 a.m., all of the anxiety of months of planning, race strategy, obtaining supplies, making travel plans, organizing crew members and crew vehicles, fundraising for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), not to mention actually training for the race, finally vanished.
As he jogged down the road and joined 80 of the most-respected ultrarunners in the world, David felt like a huge weight had been lifted off his chest—he was finally running the race that he had spent years dreaming about, the toughest foot race in the world. Now, in spite of the temperature, which was by all estimates reaching 105 degrees and climbing, he was free to enjoy the experience, and to focus on finishing the race.
David described the start as it unfolded: “The leaders went out fast, too fast for me to even think about chasing them. I hung back as we climbed out of the Badwater Basin, running at about a 10-minute-mile pace, doing my best to enjoy the company of ultrarunning ‘legends’ in the increasingly oppressive heat.”
It was reassuring to David to find that these runners, who until now were just names near the top of most race results, were actually real people. Nick Hollon, who in 2009 became the youngest Badwater finisher at age 19, ran alongside David for awhile, and told him that he was running smart by not pushing too hard in the heat, so he felt better about letting several other runners pass him.
Finish the story via Ultrarunner’s Dazzling Comeback at Badwater | Natural Vitality Sports.