The Silver State 50/50, aka the Silver State 50-Mile, 50-Kilometer and trail half marathon, turns 30 years old on May 16, 2015. A lot has changed in 30 years, not the least of which is the course, the people managing the event and those running it.
Yet Silver State, even at 30, retains a certain cache with local runners. Perhaps it’s our long history. Perhaps it’s the time of year our race is run (May, a time of spring, a time of renewal and hope). Perhaps like those longer-toothed Millennials who are entering their 30s now, Silver State has finally found its identity and its place on the ultramarathon landscape.
Whatever the reason, in celebration of Silver State’s 30th birthday on May 16 at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno, here are 10 names, accomplishments, years, memories and random thoughts that provide so much of the rich historical underpinning to northern Nevada’s oldest ultra.
1. Ann Trason. Great runners, particularly those preparing for the Western States 100-miler, have gravitated toward Silver State. In 1994, the world’s greatest ultra runner of any generation and any gender ran away with everything, running 7:29 (a time that still stands as the women’s event record). She won the race outright that year, by 18 seconds over Joe Schlereth, a perennial top-10 men’s finisher at Western States.
2. Sub-50. The time it took the great Reno runner, Sean Crom (a two-time Corbitt Award winner as the nation’s top ultramarathoner in the 1990s) to run from Hunter Lake on a treacherously tricky, rock-strewn downhill to the finish on Silver State’s “historic” course, which used to incorporate the Carson Range. The distance from Hunter Lake to the finish at Caughlin Club back then was about eight miles. With more rocks per capita on this stretch than perhaps any other local run, you do the math. The whippet-like Kilian Jornet would be hard-pressed to match the 6-foot-3, muscle-laden Crom’s time from that amazing day in 1990.
3. Tim Olson. Who’s that shirtless guy with the long, stringy hair who just won? The question was asked by many in the wake of Tim Olson’s victory in 2011, which served as a foreshadowing of Tim’s two stellar victories at Western States in 2012-2013.
4. The brand. Things, admittedly, are very “old-school” at Silver State. When we talk of “brands” we aren’t talking about social media platforms or incessant twitter feeds or the Kardashians. Literally, we are talking about the special “brand” that local ultra runner/wood worker Chet Fairbank developed for our race. The SS 50/50 brand, inspired by the many brands used by northern Nevada’s ranchers over the past 150 years, is burned into all of our awards through Chet’s wonderful artistry in the weeks prior to the race.
5. The “whiteout” of 1998. The only time in Silver State’s history when the race was suspended with more than half of the field still on the course. The morning started out benign, allowing almost all of the 50K to get up and over the Microwave climb before the temperature plummeted. Whiteout conditions quickly ensued, and after the first two 50-milers, James Nelson and Jack Powell, were through Microwave (at about 34 miles), the rest of the field was stopped and told to turn back due to safety considerations. Silver State has had some small finishing numbers, but 1998’s two official 50-mile finishers remains the lowest total in race history.
6. Claudia Berryman-Shafer. If you were to check Claudia’s Ultrasignup, you would see that of all the ultras Claudia competed in, she had her most finishes at Silver State. Claudia was a remarkable woman: a teacher, an intrepid explorer along with her husband Jim, a cancer survivor, a life force of the highest order. She was a radiant woman with friendly cheeks that were like apple dumplings with a steady, seemingly never-in-a-hurry running style that always looked to me like she was a clock with the hands stuck both on the twelves. She was an in-the-moment, totally timeless runner in that way. She was the type of person who gave, and asked little in return, always asking about you and never offering her latest exploit (often substantial, such as hiking to the top of the highest point in the Western Hemisphere, Mount Aconcagua), unless asked. The race hasn’t been the same since her passing a little more than 10 years ago. Of all the things Silver State has accomplished over the years, I personally believe the fact that Claudia chose our race more than any other ultra to run is our most important achievement. To get a sense of who Claudia was, and why her presence at our race – and at all the races she ran over the years – was so important, read this: http://www.gulfwinds.org/Columnists/Gordon%20Cherr/gordon_claudia.htm
7. Food. From the very beginning of the race, from the time when race founders Ken McKim and Roland Martin conceived of this race more than 30 years ago as a great trainer for Western States, we’ve always made sure there is plenty of food, for everyone – runners, crew, volunteers, pacers, children, Rancho San Rafael passers-by. If you don’t get enough to eat at our race, then shame on us.
8. Rory time. Silver State, in addition to playing host to a lot of known talent, has also provided a glimpse into the future. In 2007, a 22-year-old runner by the name of Rory Bosio, who had excelled as a cross country runner and skier at North Tahoe High School, made her ultramarathon debut in our 50K. Rory edged the ultra-talented Jenny Capel by a mere minute that day to win the women’s 50K. Not long after Rory was finishing in the top five at Western States and winning the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc in record time.
9. Jenny time. We are a race old enough now to have crossed generations, to be a race of fathers and daughters and mothers and sons, and nowhere is this more apparent than the legacy that co-founder Roland Martin has passed along to his daughter, Jenny Capel. Jenny is the only woman in our 30-year history to rank in the top 10 times for both the 50K and the 50M. In addition, for years she has handled our pre-race registration and morning-of-race registration. Like her father, who is quite simply the godfather of ultra running for our area, Jenny has always given back to her sport.
10. Calvin and Donna Dutton. For years, these two wonderful people have been aid station captains extraordinaire. At the Radio Towers aid station, they and their family are the first people to greet our runners on their 50M, 50K and half-marathon journeys. Some 12 hours later, they are the last aid station to urge the final finishers to the finish. Two years ago, Calvin went above and beyond and ran the final miles of the 50M with our final finisher Jeffrey Baclet, urging Jeffrey along with the words, “You can do this, brother.” Calvin’s act of kindness spurred Baclet to a sub-14-hour finish. Jeffrey and Calvin’s finish remains perhaps the most powerful finish at Silver State that I’ve ever seen.
~John Trent is the co-Race Director of Silver State. His first Silver State was in 1996. He is a 12-time finisher of the 50-mile and, when the field wasn’t particularly deep in 2000, actually was the race’s champion.