Jim Walmsley may have had a mountain lion atop his first-place trophy following Saturday’s Western States 100, but it was a different type of animal that nearly thwarted his record-breaking performance.
Just before setting a new course record by running 100 miles through the mountains of Squaw Valley to Auburn, Calif. in 14 hours, 30 minutes, 4 seconds, he encountered two cubs and a mama bear on the trail.
“…I make the right, and just scared two little cubs right up a tree on the trail,” he said in his post-race interview with iRunFar. “The tree was as close to the trail as you can get. Mama bear is right there and is not going anywhere. It was reported that it took 10 minutes (before he could pass).”
Here is Jim Walmsley a few minutes ago crossing No Hands in the lead. Word is he lost a few minutes around Pointed Rocks waiting for a bear and her cubs to clear the trail. #WS100 pic.twitter.com/QgxFIoyq7a
— iRunFar (@iRunFar) June 24, 2018
However, the 28-year-old ultra-runner from Flagstaff, Ariz. said it actually took less time to scoot past the bears, which enabled him to beat the old course record by more than 16 minutes.
“What it feels like in that situation, when adrenaline is very high, feels very different. But it couldn’t have been more than two minutes. I would say it was at least a minute because I was yelling at it, I was trying to throw rocks in that area to at least scare the mama bear. The cubs didn’t scare me as much. I think they climbed pretty high. Eventually, I think I was being aggressive enough with my voice that I think the mama bear was a bit hesitant. I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll just sneak past.’ I’d say I was 10 to 15 feet away from it when I was staring at it, like, “Don’t come at me.” It was nice enough to let me go. We finished the job from there.”
This comes after two consecutive years of trying to break the Western States record. In 2016, Walmsley was on pace to make history, but got lost on the course at mile 93, which is the same point that he came across the bears in this year’s race. In 2017, he was unable to finish because of extraordinarily high heat.
This isn’t Walmsley’s first world record. In 2016, he ran across the Grand Canyon and back (42 miles) in 5 hours, 55 minutes and 20 seconds, which was 26 minutes faster than the previous record.