Athlete Profiles: Sarah Strong The 100 Mile SuperMom
Sarah Strong started running in 7th grade (fun fact- she was highschool teammates with fellow Microcosm athlete Pat Horvat!), and loved running mostly because of the challenge and team atmosphere. She took a hiatus from serious training in college, but dove back in right after with the unchecked passion that many runners know all too well.
“There were a number of years of being inspired to train for events, working my ass off, getting injured, ending a season with a DNS or DNF, taking huge chunks of time off- repeat cycle,” says Sarah. It was that painful lily-pad approach that inspired her to seek out coaching, and brought her to Microcosm.
She embraced serious training again after becoming a mom, running through both of her pregnancies and completing her first marathon a year after her first son was born. After the birth of her second kiddo, Sarah got curious about taking her speed to the trails, and joined a moms running group.
“They really opened my eyes up to the broader trail running community, helped support me through the rough early years of new motherhood, and showed me that “ordinary” women could tackle some huge endurance efforts. The seed was planted..and many of those same women showed up to pace me for my big efforts this year,” says Sarah.
Last Sarah Standing
Sarah is no stranger to long days, and logged several ultras as well as finishing R2R2R. But then, 2020 happened and rearranged some of Sarah’s best-laid plans. Sarah embraced the challenges of COVID in life, and in running, doubling down on mom-duty while re-committing to pursuing running at a whole new level, and signed up for her first Backyard Ultra style event.
The idea was born out of a really, tough long run that sapped some of Sarah’s confidence in herself as a runner. There was insecurity. There was imposter syndrome. But, they were no match for Sarah.
Instead of lingering on it, we decided to re-frame it and turn it into an opportunity to celebrate Sarah’s unique strengths, and to get curious about her potential.
“For me a lot of what brings me to ultra running is this desire to expand my limits while I am trying to reach them, so a backyard style event where there was no finish line just seemed like the perfect approach,” says Sarah.
Sarah’s real strengths lie in her commitment, consistency and absolutely dogged tenacity when chasing the things she cares about. A Backyard Ultra, which consists of athletes completing one 4.116 mile loop every hour, on the hour until they literally cannot anymore, seemed right up her alley. To emphasize the fact that this event was about Sarah Vs. Herself, we decided to call it Last Sarah Standing.
To train for this event, Sarah focused on embracing consistency and easy days. Frequently, that means early mornings with her headlamp, running in the snow near her home on Colorado’s Front Range. Instead of focusing on logging huge days on feet or ginormous workouts, we emphasized Sarah’s strengths (resilience for days!) and embraced the opportunities for growth.
Training wasn’t perfect. It never is. But Sarah met every setback with courage and self-compassion, taking extra rest days when she needed them, and charging extra hard on the days when she felt good.
Last Sarah Standing was a celebration of Sarah in all of her Sarah-ness. It involved the whole family crewing, next level snack-sorting, and Sarah leveraging her skills as a community builder to gather an all-star super-crew to support her effort.
Her original goal was to run for 24 hours and complete her first-ever 100-miler. Not only did she achieve that, but she won the entire event – her debut Backyard Ultra and 100-miler.
“I learned a lot out there but my biggest takeaway is that I became a 100 mile runner sometime over the past year, not when I finished running 100 miles that morning. I didn’t become stronger, a better athlete, or any more capable for finishing that distance–all of that has been happening all year long and that effort was just an opportunity to celebrate it,” says Sarah.
Parenting Is Training
“The Venn diagram of ultra running skills and parenting skills is one big circle,” says Sarah. Whether it’s problem-solving or sleep deprivation, Sarah honed her ultrarunning skills while raising her kiddos. “I love to look at parenting challenges as ultra training”, and whether it’s always being prepared with sunscreen and wipes or a change of clothes, Sarah channels the think-on-your-toes problem solving that she learned from being a mom. “Needing to stay calm in chaos. Drowning out distractions. Getting someone from ‘fight or flight mode’ back into a thinking space. Using joy and humor to decrease tension. Calculating snack needs and potential wardrobe changes. All of this is parenting and it all helps me with running. Do not separate your being a runner from your being a parent.” Sarah knows that to achieve the things that she’s passionate about, she needs to bring her full self – mom, partner, and runner – to the starting line.
Sarah loves to bring her kiddos along for the ride, too. Whether it’s running across the finish line with a little on or recruiting them into the crewing process, Sarah is always looking for ways to include family in her passions and interests, and modeling for her kiddos hard work and determination along the way “Celebrate your runs with your family and celebrate your kids with your running friends,” says Sarah, “Bring your kids to races– to show them what is possible.To show them what YOU are capable of. And because seeing them in a race is the greatest feeling in the world.”
For Sarah, parenting is both a challenge and an opportunity that presents a constant growth opportunity, much like training. And to grow in both, it’s all about balance.
For Sarah, communication is key for getting it all done in a busy family. “Communicate your needs, your appreciation, your anticipation of upcoming stressors, when you notice you aren’t being your best self…all of it. Open and honest communication is essential for getting your needs met and making sure you know how to support your people,” says Sarah. Most weekends involve Sarah and her partner trading off mornings with one parent at home, one out doing their thing, until they can spend the afternoon together as a family. That way, each parent gets a full morning to pursue their passion before afternoons of family hikes and adventures. Compromise, scheduling and planning ahead are all key for Sarah to get out there and do what she loves and bringing the whole crew along whenever possible. “I also love going to a trailhead and doing a run and my family meets me in the parking lot for a hike afterward,” says Sarah.
In her first year with Microcosm, Sarah has learned to embrace rest and easy efforts. “Consistency and easy running are key. I used to run three or four days a week mostly at tempo. Now I run 5 days a week mostly easy.”
Sarah’s biggest tip for other athletes chasing big dreams? “Believe in yourself, trust the process and just keep moving forward one day and run at a time. It will happen. Always question your perceived limitations.”
Sarah Strong isn’t just a name – it’s a whole new type of Strong. You can find her on Instagram @strongmomcolorado.