June 24, 2024

Do YOU have what it takes? Sarah Stanley offers wisdom gained from endurance athletics.

Sarah Stanley is an ultra endurance athlete who is passionate about her faith, eating real food, fitness and helping others! She’s completed 22 marathons, 11 ultramarathons, countless half marathons, plus 2 cycling adventures (DC to NYC and San Francisco to San Diego.) Allow her wisdom and encouragement to empower YOU to challenge your own fitness!

How do you handle all the different emotions that come with ultra-events?
It’s part of being an ultrarunner- you just accept how you’re feeling and keep on running! For longer ultra’s you’ll go through a wide range of different emotions. I’ve cried, laughed and cursed (yes) but always had fun! 
What physical/psychological skills have you’ve learned from endurance events?
It really is all in your head. You have to push yourself by giving yourself a pep talk (or two.) There are times when the going doesn’t just become rough, it becomes downright unbearable. And then I’ll think about those who can’t run or those who are serving our country or how the world needs some positive examples and I keep on trudging.
What do you say to yourself to keep going during an event?
I think back over my life and the things that I’ve overcome and survived, and that is what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve come up with quotes such as “the 11th commandment: thou shalt not quit” or “giving up is for wimps” or “a finish is a finish.”  I also visualize the finish line, getting to the next aid station or top of hill. When you run an ultra you are your own cheerleader.

How do you control negative self-talk along the course?
I must (you must!) keep positive. Some races don’t always go as planned. It can be easy to get sucked into the mud (literally and figuratively.) If I get in a rough mental spot, it will be very hard to keep on running! Remember that running ultramarathons is 99% mental! I really try to just be thankful for the gift of running and enjoy the beauty that is around me. Ultras are run mainly on trails so there is usually plenty to gaze at; I find a special sweet spot-a grove or zone as some would call it- and I just stay there for the duration of the race (and even training for that matter.)

How do you handle/respond to others negativity while preparing for or during a race?
Ignore the haters! I surround myself with positive, loving, supportive people. Negativity always destroys while positive always builds up. Negative people are people trapped in their own unhappiness and will try to bring you down. Haters or negative people is about them- not about me or you. The best way to respond is with love and kindness and to keep doing what I am called to do, which is to make a positive difference in this world. 
What keeps you coming back again and again to race?
Love! The love of the sport, people, seeing how far you can push yourself when the going gets rough, being alone in the woods and really, there is just something about ultrarunning that I can’t describe with mere words. The energy, the woods, the challenge, the thrill of the unknown- it’s a sport I am in love with. And I hope I always will be.  
How has racing ultra’s helped you in everyday life?
Ultrarunning and life go hand-in-hand. I think that’s why I love it so much! Life has not always been easy for me and I’ve learned to rise above the bad and make the most of each day that I do have. My life has helped me in ultrarunning; ultrarunning is just the icing on the cake (or the salt on kale chips in my case.) 
What’s the number one thing racing has taught you? Either about yourself or others.
You never know how strong you are mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally until you tackle what most people think of as inconceivable and come out on the other side smiling (and yes, sometimes crying too.)

Are there stereotypes you face about female ultra-competitors? How do you debunk them?
I think that women are generally perceived as weaker to begin with. There are some incredible women athletes out there! I think the best way to debunk them is to just keep training and showing up-saying yes to life. Show others that you are committed and will always do your best- no matter what! 

What is your best advice to someone considering participating in an ultra?
Have some running under your shoes! You’ll have better long term success if you start small, stay diligent and consistent. Start running on trails. Ultras are synonymous with dirt, woods, river crossings, jumping trees, hills- you get the picture! Work on the small things that add up over time for example planks, side planks, squats, lunges, one leg squats, pushups. Then sign up for a 50k! And let me know- I would love to cheer you on either virtually or in person.

Sarah is the founder of Sarah Stanley www.sarahstanleyinspired.com, faith+food+fitness. When Sarah isn’t running or cycling she enjoys creating new recipes, taking a hot yoga class and traveling. She’s been featured in various media outlets such as SHAPE, Ladies’ Home Journal, Washingtonian and SELF. Follow her on Twitter http://twitter/sarahstanley and Instagram http://web.stagram.com/sarahstanley_/