Updated: June 26, 2015

Ryan Sandes is geared up for his third appearance at the world’s most prestigious ultra-distance trail race (photo credit: Craig Kolesky/Red Bull)

Feeling rested and prepared, Ryan Sandes hopes to make history this weekend by becoming the first South African athlete to win the Western States Endurance Run in California.
“I am feeling really good and I am in a really good head space, so I am excited for this year’s race,” Sandes said from his base in the United States ahead of the annual event.
The 33-year-old ultra-distance trail runner, who finished second last year in the inaugural Ultra-Trail World Tour series, will make his third attempt at the annual 161km race.
On his Western States debut in 2012 he finished second behind American Timothy Olson, who set a course record of 14:46:44, and last year he ended fifth overall during a packed racing schedule.
Sandes had a troubled build-up to this weekend’s event, dropping out of the 73.3km TransVulcania race in the Canary Islands last month, in his first competitive outing after recovering from glandular fever.
With his sights firmly set on the Western States 100-miler, however, he admitted he was not entirely disappointed that he was unable to finish his comeback event.
“The positive of that was that I was able to get straight into training for Western States and not have to take two weeks off to recover,” he said.
“I went straight to Big Bear, California after TransVulcania and got a great four-week block of training in at altitude.
“My preparation has gone really well and I am feeling really good.”
Holding a best time of 15:03:56, set on his Western States debut, he hoped to go a few minutes quicker this weekend.
He admitted it would not be easy, however, against a world-class field including Olson, defending champion Rob Krar of Canada and Francois D’Haene of France, who won last year’s Ultra-Trail World Tour title.
“I would love to break 15 hours but that will depend a lot on the weather and I would need to have a perfect day out,” Sandes said.
“The plan is to run my own race and just try get to the finish line as fast as I can.
“Most importantly I want to enjoy the experience as this will probably be my last go at Western States because I want to run a few new races in Europe next year.”
The Western States race is considered the most prestigious ultra-distance trail running event around the globe.
While no SA athlete has won the race, former Comrades Marathon winners Ann Trason of the United States and Ellie Greenwood of Great Britain have secured victory in the women’s division.
“If I could choose one race I would love to win, it would be the Western States 100,” Sandes said.
“It’s the ‘original’ 100 miler, one of the first ever (first held in 1974) and the race has such a great vibe.”