Jesse Lang is a pretty normal guy.
His family moved from Colville to the Tri-Cities when he was 6 years old, so he eventually graduated from Richland High School, then attended Central Washington University and now holds a day job as a third-generation employee at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
And a couple times a year, he’s a voluntary participant in 100-mile races.
“I really, really enjoy getting in the outdoors and being able to cover that much mileage,” Lang said. “But during a race, I always — and I assume everyone else also hits a point of, ‘what the (expletive) am I doing here? Why am I doing this to myself?’ ”
Most recently, he finished 20th in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the Super Bowl of 100-milers, on June 24-25 in California. Enduring the extreme heat and slopes of the race that stretches from Squaw Valley to Auburn. Lang, 32, finished in 20 hours, 9 minutes and 50 seconds, well ahead of the 30-hour cutoff in his first attempt at the world’s oldest 100-mile race.
“Of course I wish I would have won it,” he said. “My goal before the race was to finish Top 10. I started the race with a minor hip injury, and the first 30 miles of the trail was pretty harsh.
“During the day it got up to 100 degrees. I wound up finishing at about 1 a.m. and it was still 85 degrees out.”
As rigorous and intense as training for endurance races is, the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Lang said his routine isn’t particularly complicated.
“You run a lot of miles, and then you run some more miles,” he said. “Some of the really big ultra runners, they’re able to run ridiculous mileages, they run 100-plus miles week in, week out, for a year or more.
“My body tends to break down if I do that too much. I’ll ramp up for three or four months. This year, it was the most miles I’ve ever ran. By May, I was averaging over 100 miles a week, and then I did like a three-week taper before the race.”
Having wrestled for Richland — he placed second at state at 119 pounds in 2003 — and the now-defunct program at CWU, Lang came from an athletic background, but competitive running certainly wasn’t a part of it. He somewhat unwillingly got his start in the world of trail running when he helped pace his brother, Sean, for a stretch of the 2009 Cascade Crest 100-miler in Easton.
“I wasn’t very happy running for him. I complained a lot,” Jesse said. “But that opened the door. The Northwest is a pretty cool area with the Pacific Crest Trail and other places you can run around. I started getting a little bit into it just to be able to explore stuff.”
Sean was one of two pacers Jesse had for his run at the Western States 100.
Lang’s first 100-mile race was the 2013 Cascade Crest, where he took 15th. He started running distance races in 2011, according to his Ultra Signup page, and has recorded 11 victories and finished in all but two of his 38 career starts.
His two biggest wins were the Cascade Crest in 2015 (finished in 18:23:56) and 2016 (18:38:52). If he defends his back-to-back titles by winning the Cascade Crest on Aug. 26, he’ll be the first person to win three of them, consecutively or otherwise.
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but I’m signed up for Cascade Crest again this year,” Lang said. “Right now I’m hoping to recover and race it healthy this year, maybe win it one more time so I can retire from that race.”