It was not a cold winter for most residents of the Wood River Valley, but then again, most of us were not waking up 4:30 in the morning to go running.
But Andy Wilkins-Jones was and he shrugged off the pre-dawn chill to train for the Western States Endurance Run. His fortitude paid off with a fourth-place finish in the 34th annual 100-mile ultra-marathon in Squaw Valley, Calif., June 23-24.
Averaging a 10:24 mile pace, Wilkins-Jones was one of 100 racers to earn a coveted belt buckle for completing the course in less than 24 hours. His time of 17 hours, 20 minutes and 29 seconds was about an hour and eight minutes off the winning time of 16:12.16 set by Hal Koerner. Scott Jurek set the course record of 15:36.27 in 2004.
Wilkins-Jones, a father of three and headmaster at The Community School, has recorded four top-10 performances dating back to 2004. His best finish was second place in 2005, in which he finished second to Jurek in 17:07.04.
The course runs along the Western States Trail, starting at Squaw Valley and ending in Auburn, Calif., a total of 100 miles over which runners scale stark ascents and survive quad-shaking descents. Traveling original trails used by miners in the 1850's, participants climb 2,550 vertical feet in the first four and a half miles and go on to scale another 15,540 vertical feet before descending 22,970 feet to Auburn.
This year's race had 392 starters and 270 finishers for a 68.9 percent completion rate. There are 367 days left and countless cold mornings before next year's event.