Local Runners Shine a National Spotlight on Spokane

The running community in Spokane region has never been stronger than it is right now. Throughout 2015 and into 2016, the running achievements in the Inland Northwest continue to gain national recognition. Even better, these running performances span every age, gender and running surface.

For starters, Gunhild Swanson became an ultrarunning celebrity when she finished the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run at age 70 – with only SIX seconds to spare before the 30-hour cutoff. The YouTube video of her finish blew up, and she has since been featured in several articles and even appears in the trail running movie “This Is Your Day” starring running legends Rob Krar and Caroline Boller. Swanson is quick to point out that she doesn’t want to be known for “finishing last.” The 100.2 miles in 2015 was Swanson’s third finish at Western States; her personal best is 25:40:28, set in 2005 at the age of 60. Nevertheless, UltraRunning Magazine awarded Swanson with the Female Age Group Performance of the Year. She received 147 votes compared to the runner-up, who received only 62 votes. Swanson is unstoppable, and she is currently training hard to return to Western States this summer.

Spokane runners Ben and Rachel Bucklin will also be at the starting line of Western States this year. Rachel will be pacing her husband, and they both have achieved notoriety at the 100-mile distance. Ben Bucklin finished the San Diego 100 miler in 17:44. He placed second overall but first in the Solo (unsupported) Division. Meanwhile, Rachel Bucklin landed on the 2015 Top 100-Mile Females when she burned up the Rio Del Lago race in 20:42.

For those interested in something shorter than 100 miles, you might consider running with Carl Combs. At age 50, he rarely runs more than 5km or 10km races. His average pace is well under 6 minutes per mile, and he just took first place in his age group at the National USATF Cross Country Championships in Bend, Oregon. He was also awarded a special second-place medal for the Masters Age-Graded performance. An age-graded performance uses an international achievement percentile to offset the bias for gender or age compared to the world record. Even without a calculator, every local runner who has run with Carl will tell you that he is a tactical race genius and nearly impossible to pass.

Last but not least, Spokane marathoner Rachel Jaten just competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. The brutal LA marathon course included 84 sharp turns – the hardest marathon trials race to date. At the start, Jaten was not ranked in the top 100 runners, but she proved everyone wrong when she finished 48th. Clearly, she can compete on the national stage, and she is one of the most respected marathon runners in the Northwest.

Without a doubt, these runners will each tell you they are only as fast as their support group. They each have a fire inside, but none of them run or train in a vacuum. The local running community bolsters the runners around it, and anyone can see this first hand if they show up for a Thursday night Flying Irish run or attend one of the awesome Trail Maniac races. From North Central’s unmatched consecutive Cross Country State Championships to the Gonzaga Women’s Conference Championship to the 40th anniversary of Bloomsday to the never-ending growth of the local running clubs, it’s a great time to be a runner in the Inland Northwest. //