In 1974, Gordy Ainsleigh competed on foot against horses and riders in a 100-mile trail race through the Sierra Nevada mountains. He wanted to achieve something that others thought impossible. This single event led to the birth of one of the most famous 100 mile footraces in the world, The Western States 100.
I first met Ainsleigh while competing in the TransRockies Run in 2012. In a few conversations, I heard about how he would “geezer” competitors he passed and crack jokes on the trail. His presence was grand around the campground where runners stayed during the six-day stage race.
Now 40 years after Ainsleigh’s first 100-mile run, ultra-distance trail running has grown into a global sport with professional teams, athletes and dedicated gear brands. Every weekend thousands of people toe the line ready to explore their limits, in body and mind.
“The Original” by Salomon Running TV recounts Gordy Ainsleigh’s historic run against the horses and discusses the growth of Ultra-Distance trail running. —Sean McCoy