Jan. 30, 2015
For immediate release
From Leadville to Western States, Auburn ultramarathoner delivers
(Second in a series highlighting the six members of the Sacramento Running Association’s 2015 Hall of Fame class. Today: Bill Finkbeiner).
The last day Bill Finkbeiner didn’t run was
in the 1970s, his streak at 35 years and counting. Don’t expect it to end anytime soon.
The Auburn ultramarathoner has completed more than 200 ultras, including an unprecedented 30 Leadville Trail 100-Milers, 25 Way Too Cool 50ks and 17 Western States 100-Mile Endurance Runs.
But dedication and durability are just two of his calling cards. The 59-year-old landscape contractor also possesses an abundance of talent.
He’s finished third, fourth and fifth at Leadville, and fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth at Western States, which finishes in his hometown. Never one to shy away from a running challenge, Finkbeiner also managed to complete a ‘snow crossing’ of the Western States course one winter.
Finkbeiner’s accomplishments earned him a spot in the Sacramento Running Association’s Hall of Fame. He is one of six inductees in the 2015 class, joining Jesuit High School coach Walt Lange, former Jesuit distance stars Eric and Mark Mastalir, California International Marathon co-founder Sally Edwards and Masters standout Jim O’Neil.
That group will be honored at the SRA’s Hall of Fame and Annual Achievement Awards dinner on Feb. 21 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.
Tickets for the 6 p.m. event are $50. For more information, visit www.runsra.org.
“I was surprised,” Finkbeiner said of his selection. “It’s a pretty big running community. It means a lot to me.”
And Finkbeiner means a lot to the running world, particularly out on the ultra trails.
“Bill is one of the genuine original trail runners we all can learn from,” said Auburn’s Tim Twietmeyer, a five-time Western States champion who joined the SRA Hall of Fame last year.
“He’s shown that he’s fast and durable by his times at extremely competitive races like Western States and Leadville, and by his unprecedented 30 finishes at Leadville.
“That’s only upstaged by his streak of running every day for the last 35 years. Make that fast, durable and dedicated.”
Finkbeiner’s first race wasn’t a 5k or 10k, but rather the Sacramento Marathon in 1979. His inability to train consistently prompted him to start his streak.
“I would run for a month, then I wouldn’t run for a month,” he said. “The only reason I started it (his streak) is I didn’t run.”
He does now, every … single … day since Jan. 1, 1980. He’s run through two broken big toes and a hernia surgery in 2005 that pushed his resolve to the limit.
Finkbeiner ran 1.07 miles (according to his GPS) the day after his surgery, meeting the minimum one-mile requirement set by the international organization that keeps track of streaks.
“That first day was rough,” he said. “It’s a lot like the day after a marathon.”
Finkbeiner savors his success at Leadville, where he completed 30 consecutive races from 1984-2013. The ‘Race Across the Sky’ goes through the Colorado Rockies, with a low point of 9,200 feet and a high elevation of 12,600 feet.
The out-and-back course starts and finishes in the town of Leadville, Colo., population 2,580.
“It’s more of a challenge for me than Western or Wasatch (a 100-mile race in Utah),” Finkbeiner said. “The whole town, it’s a small enough town when you’re there, you get runners everywhere, the whole town seems to be aware of what’s going on.
“It’s an old, historic town.”
Finkbeiner takes pride in his 1992 ultra season, when he finished in the top 10 at the four major 100-mile races in the western U.S. in an impressive three-month stretch. He placed seventh at Western States (18 hours, 51 minutes and 41 seconds) third at Leadville (20:30:06), third at Wasatch (23:23:23) and fifth at Angeles Crest (21:18:28).
“At first it was just a sense of accomplishment doing the distance,” he said. “Anytime I was going farther than I’d ever gone it was kind of cool.
“You’re out on the trail, where I prefer to be.”
Finkbeiner, who lives with his wife, Beth, and has two children, Christian, 21, and Rachel, 18, ran his first ultra at the American River 50 in 1981. He recalls meeting long-time friend Dana Gard the night before the race at packet pickup.
“He’s kind of been my mentor,” Finkbeiner said. “We ran our first ultras on the same day.”
Finkbeiner, a Rio Americano High School graduate, completed the ‘snow crossing’ of the Western States course in 2004 with Twietmeyer and Dean Karnazes, wearing snowshoes for part of the journey.
“It was cold and clear,” Finkbeiner said. “The weather was perfect.”
Finkbeiner and the other five inductees join the 16 members already in the SRA Hall of Fame. The inaugural class of 2013 featured Billy Mills, Rae Clark, Eileen Claugus, Chris Iwahashi, Helen Klein, Paul Reese, Dennis Rinde and Linda Somers Smith. The 2014 class included Michael Stember, Al Baeta, Patti Gray Bellan, Lindsay Hyatt Barr, Harold Kuphaldt, John Mansoor, Heike Skaden Mansoor and Twietmeyer.
The Sacramento Running Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding new ways to encourage people of all ages and abilities to run. The SRA is committed to developing new, quality running events that appeal to a broad variety of runners.