What makes a race – or any sporting challenge, for that matter – iconic? What elevates a race to being a bucket-list event that excites runners around the world? What makes a specific 100-mile trail race stand out from all the other 100-mile races on the calendar?

The answer is never going to be just one thing. Which is probably why there is a whole heap of reasons Katie Schide – a member of The North Face trail running team and widely considered to be one of the most talented runners currently competing on the circuit – is so excited about returning to this year’s Western States Endurance Run.

Born in Maine, USA, during her childhood Katie enjoyed hiking with her dad in New England. While studying geology at Middlebury College in Vermont, she spent her summer holidays working in the huts that offer refreshment to visitors to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and this cemented her love for the rocky trails that criss-cross the mountain landscape. An unofficial race with her mates between eight of the huts sparked an interest in trail running, and she entered her first trail race in 2015.

Perhaps it was Katie’s love of the mountains – and a specific trail running goal – that drove the next steps in her life: she moved to Zurich for her PhD in 2016, and she now lives in Isola, in the French Alps. “From the beginning of my running career,” she explains, “my focus has always been UTMB, because the course itself inspires me more than most other races. It’s pretty iconic.”

But UTMB isn’t the only iconic race on Katie’s mind. The Western States Endurance Run will take place on 29 June this year, a couple of months before UTMB. So Western States – in which she will be competing for the second time – is currently Katie’s priority. And nothing is going to make Katie hesitate from throwing everything she can into being the best athlete she can be.


When Like the Wind talks to Katie, she is in Flagstaff, Arizona. The fact that Katie has temporarily relocated from her home in France to the US is indicative of her focus when it comes to racing.

The 2023 film Step by Step followed Katie’s journey from UTMB to Western States. In the movie, Topher Gaylord, one of Katie’s pacers for the 2023 Western States race and someone who has known Katie for much of her career, suggests that Katie is a particularly cerebral athlete who thinks very deeply about the sport and the challenges she undertakes. In the case of Western States, that means moving to a place where the trails are much more like those on the race route than the paths she treads in the Alps. Hence staying in Flagstaff, among the rolling hills and smooth trails.

In preparation for her 2024 Western States, Katie took part in the Canyons 100km race, which finishes in Auburn – the starting point for Western States. The course for the Canyons race varies from time to time and in 2024 the route shared several sections with the Western States course, including passing close to the Rucky Chucky river crossing, as well as out to the famous Devil’s Thumb and Swinging Bridge.

Katie ended up winning the women’s race and placing sixth overall at the Canyons 100km. “I just wanted to use [Canyons] as an opportunity to race in the US,” says Katie. “It’s the same place [as Western States], it’s a lot of the same trails, I had the same crew that will be with me at Western States. So it was the perfect opportunity.”

The Canyons race is one of a handful of events that guarantee entry into the Western States race, offering a “golden ticket” to the top two female and male finishers. Not that this was important for Katie, because she secured a guaranteed entry when she finished second female at Western States 2023, behind Courtney Dauwalter. But the promise of golden tickets did mean that the Canyons field was extremely competitive.

“People are there to race,” Katie explains, “because they really want the golden ticket. So it’s not just a matter of: ‘Oh, I’ll just do an early season race to get back in to racing.’ I knew that from the start, it would be a real race. So that’s what kept me excited training through the spring.”

With the win at Canyons 100km under her belt, Katie has been able to focus fully on Western States. But taking on this race was not part of Katie’s initial plan for her racing career. “I don’t think I ever really saw myself doing the race,” Katie says, “because it’s really fast. And I really consider myself more of a technical mountain runner. Even UTMB is not technical at all – although there’s more climbing [than in Western States].”

Katie’s 2023 Western States run came courtesy of a golden ticket following her 2022 UTMB triumph. She saw Western States as a new challenge; the next goal that she could set herself. “I thought: ‘OK, well… What’s more challenging than doing a race that I don’t consider myself to be competitive at?’” Katie says. “And that’s what motivates me. Just not knowing. I don’t know how this is gonna work out. But I’m willing to try 100 percent to see what my best can be. So that’s what brought me to Western States last year.”

In 2024, Katie is coming back to the Western States Endurance Run with the same levels of curiosity, motivation and ability. The difference might be that this time she knows what the race has in store for her. “And at the end of the day, [last year] I surprised myself,” she says. “I did better than I ever could have imagined. And, of course, whenever you finish a race like that, you think: ‘Huh, OK, not everything went perfectly. There’s, like, tons of things I want to improve.’ So I wonder what it would be like to do it again, now that I know what happened the first time.”

Part of the knowledge Katie gleaned from her first attempt at Western States is that in the Vectiv Pro shoe from The North Face, she has the perfect footwear.

“I’ve used the Vectiv Pro for every race since 2022,” explains Katie, “and I plan to use it for Western States. If someone was to tell me that I can pick any shoe I want for Western States – and that it doesn’t have to be a North Face shoe – I would still choose the same shoe. No doubt.”

When asked whether she will race the UTMB in 2024, Katie does not commit. Instead, she says that she is completely focused on her return to the mountains of California. After that she will make a decision about racing in Chamonix again.

“The focus is what gets me excited,” says Katie. “When I’m training and I know I need to do my best because the competition is gonna demand my best. That’s what makes the training more exciting. I feel like: ‘OK, I’m gonna go train really well. Prepare really well. Because if I don’t, I’m gonna know on race day.’”

One thing that is not in doubt is that Katie is doing everything she can to ensure that she will be able to have the best possible race. And who can ask for more than that?


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