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Training for WSER with no hills

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

The chances of Toni Gracia being selected in the Western States lottery on her first attempt were slim but none-the-less her name was pulled from the hat. So, how does a runner with no access to hills prepare for the original trail event?

Toni Gracia had expected to be entering the Western States lottery for many years before she would have  any chance of winning a spot.

But on her first attempt (she qualified through Tarawera) Toni’s name was drawn and it was time to prepare for the 2018 race.

“I was looking at the list of people who got in and there were people with a lot more running than me,” says Toni.

“I had only done one 100km event.”

Toni, a mum of three young kids, had been training for Old Ghost Road (85km) and used that base to set herself up for Western States.

However the special needs teacher and personal trainer from Swan Hill lives in one of the flattest parts of Victoria and had no hills or mountains on which to train – not even a gradual slope.

“Where I live there are no ultrarunners. There is no incline for 200km. For other people Western States is not hilly but for me it was mountainous,” she jokes.

Western States had been a dream of Toni’s since discovering trail running events and watching countless videos about the iconic race.

Her goal was to complete the run in under 30 hours which she achieved – finishing in 26 hours and 13 minutes with a huge smile.

“When it felt hard I reminded myself how lucky I was to be there and I finished in good spirits,” says Toni.

“I think everyone should put Western States on their bucket list. It was pretty amazing.”

The iconic event draws the best of the best in trail running and Toni was awed to rub shoulders with ultrarunners she had watched or read about.

She spotted Jim Walmsley walking about and at one point Camille Herron, the world record holder for a 100mile distance, sat next to her.

“The people were the highlight for me,” says Toni.

“I met some wonderful people and friendships were made. The thing I love about trail running is that everyone comes from different backgrounds, different jobs and we are on an equal playing field.

“We are out there against the mountains and I love it.”

Toni Gracia switched to ultra-running about three years ago but usually only gets to run trails at events. Her goals include entering a multi-day event and running a 200 mile race.

Western States Endurance Run
Toni Gracia won the lottery for WSER on her first attempt.

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