As the dust settles from Courtney Dauwalter‘s blazing record-breaking run at last weekend’s Hardrock 100 on the heels of her triumph at Western States, another set of back-to-back record-breaking efforts stands out. At age 61, Becky Bates of Kimberly, BC, obliterated the female course record in the 60-69 age category at this year’s Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colo., completing the race in 36:15:58. That time, making her the seventh-fastest female competitor at this year’s ultra, she chopped more than five hours off the record set by Pam Reed at 41:56:00.
Bringing Bates’s outstanding run into the realm of back-to-back record-breaking efforts is the fact that the only other time she has competed at Hardrock, she smashed the record in the female 50-59 age group. The 32:46:17 she ran in 2017 at age 55 still stands as the age group’s best of her for more than five hours.
Bates tells canadian running that part of the advantage she had, both in her Hardrock debut six years ago and last weekend’s race, was that she was unburdened by any kind of pressure to perform. “There were absolutely no expectations,” says Bates, who took up running in her early 50s. “When I got into Hardrock the first time I was a pretty novice runner, so there were no expectations about how I would do. And when I got into Hardrock the second time–well, I’m old, so that takes the pressure off, 100 percent!”
Further alleviating any form of pressure this year, she said, was the support of her pacers and crew, led by her husband, Ian Binnie. “He’s the best crew ever, and I have the best pacers ever,” says Bates. “I’m one of the most blessed humans on the planet. I get to hang out with these amazing people.”
There’s also the vibe of the race itself, she says, which is unique among ultras. “It’s just a race that’s not like any other race. Certainly in the group (of runners) that I was in this year, we spent time with each other. I felt at one point I was doing a little counseling for one of the runners. Even the girls, we stopped at the top of Grant-Swamp Pass swamp pass and took a group photo. All of us were trying to get our place in that seventh/eighth/ninth/tenth position—the pros had gone, and a couple of the faster girls—and the rest of us are still hugging and talking, taking photos,” she said.
The runner notes she was struck by the race’s sense of community in 2017. “I got mentored by two runners who had run it multiple times. We spent a good portion of the course together and got to know each other, where most runs you just can’t do that, because you’re moving too fast. It’s not like we’re running beside each other all the time, but you catch up at aid stations, or you catch up on a downhill or an uphill.”
She notes that at no time during either race did setting a record even cross her mind. “I am competitive, but I’m not focused on being competitive—that’s not why I go in,” Bates says. “The enjoyment I get out of the race is spending time with these people I really respect and like being around.”
Bates says she prepared for this year’s Hardrock by running the 85-km Old Ghost Road ultra in New Zealand following her recovery from COVID-19. “It was a phenomenal run, but it was hard, because I had one speed. I had nothing in the tank, but it was a good one just to give me the confidence to know that I could do the distance.”
Trail running after 50: Becky Bates
Next on her race schedule is The Rut 50-km ultra in Bozeman, Mont. in September. “I’m excited to do it because I like hills, and it’s a challenge, because 50K gets harder as you get older, for sure,” she says. “There’s a difference from when I started at 52 and now—doing 50K is really hard. You just lose that speed, I think. But we’ll see what happens.”