H. Gordon Ainsleigh, DC (born 1947), better known as Gordy Ainsleigh, is a California based chiropractor and pioneer of the 100-mile (160 km) trail ultramarathon, a form of extreme long-distance trail running.
In 1974, Ainsleigh was the first to run the course of the Western States Endurance Run. At the time, the trail was used only by horses participating in the 24-hour Western States Trail Ride. When his horse went lame prior to the race, Ainsleigh decided he would run the torturous 100 miles (160 km) of mountain trail from the Squaw Valley Ski Resort to Auburn, California, rather than look for another horse to ride. Ainsleigh completed the 'equestrian race', without a horse, in 23 hours and 42 minutes. This was the beginning of the Western States Endurance Run, and the beginning of the modern sport of ultradistance trail running. Two months before he first ran the 100 miles Ainsleigh was a member of the winning team in the Levi's Ride and Tie championship, the sport for two humans alternating running and riding an equine teammate. Ainsleigh finished second in that race in 1973 and in the Top Ten three other years.
Throughout his late teens, twenties and early thirties, Ainsleigh worked as a woodcutter, logger, construction worker and juvenile counselor while pursuing his educational goals at Sierra College in Rocklin, California, and at the University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Davis. He competed in wrestling and track (in the two mile (3 km) event) at Colfax High School, cross country running, wrestling and sailing at Sierra College, and wrestling at UC Santa Barbara.
In 1983, Ainsleigh received his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Western States Chiropractic College (no relation to the run) in Portland, Oregon, and was licensed in California and Oregon. During a series of years at the end of the 1980s, when he did not run the Western States 100, he volunteered his chiropractic services to the runners at the Michigan Bluff medical checkpoint. Within a few years, this grew into a team of chiropractors that he organizes each year, who join with medical doctors and podiatrists to assist runners to arrive safely at the finish line.
As the dean of trail ultra running, Gordon is permanently assigned "zero" as his official bib number by the Western States Endurance Run. The winner of the previous year is assigned #1. Dr. Ainsleigh has finished the Western States 100 twenty-two times, most recently in June, 2007, though he unofficially completed the race in just over 30 hours (the official cutoff) in 2010. His fastest time was 20:55, in 1984, after starting 8 minutes late.
Today, trail ultramarathons continue to gain in popularity. The typical distances of these events today are fifty kilometers (31.1 miles), fifty miles (80.4 kilometers), one hundred kilometers (62.2 miles), and one hundred miles (160.8 kilometers).
Ainsleigh also briefly held the oddball record for the fastest marathon ever run by a person who weighed over 200 pounds, 2 hours, 52 minutes, and 7 seconds, at the Avenue of The Giants Marathon in May, 1973, along the Eel River and among the famed giant Redwoods of the Northern California coast. His friend, Ken 'Cowman' Shirk, bettered that time two years later, at the same Avenue of the Giants race, by running 2:48 "and change". Ainsleigh ran a 2:58 "and change" that same day.
In 1988, Ainsleigh started rock climbing with Zane Kime, MD, an alternative medicine doctor from a nearby town who was among the pioneering scientists researching the health benefits of natural light through sun exposure. Through this friendship, he became involved in Kime's scientific work, and in 1993 authored a medical journal article on the substantial ability of sun exposure to prevent internal cancer. His article was the first scientific literature review on that subject to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, and advanced that avenue of scientific exploration by interesting several more research groups into exploring this phenomenon (see Studzinski & Moore 1995).
Ainsleigh also wrote an article on the life of the first great modern endurance horse and his owner, Wendell Robie, the man who started the Western States Trail Ride and the sport of modern equine endurance riding. The story appeared in the January 1978, issue of Western Horseman.