Endurance Runner, Sarah Talley, Tells Her Story of Globetrotting and How Running is What Keeps Her Grounded
By Alix Shutello
The year was 2008, and Sarah Talley and her family were relocated to Singapore. Being in a strange location was not foreign to her, as Talley’s husband, Darrin, a fellow runner and Exxon Mobil executive, relocates the family every few years for his job. Talley, who had just finished her first marathon in Houston before they left the states, now needed something to keep her motivated. Like Houston, Singapore was hot and humid; Talley needed something to keep her focused on running, so while her children were in school, she trained for her next marathon. In 2009 she competed in the Sundown Marathon, a well-known international night race offering several distances including a marathon distance and an 84km distance (which was increased to 100km in 2011).
“I didn’t know anyone aside from one of the teachers from the school where our children attended. The teacher, however, was doing the ultra, or two marathons back to back, so he was already out on the course,” Talley explained. “One could say when I saw him I was truly amazed at his determination…and the wheels started turning about going farther one day.”
Talley caught the running bug back in 2003, when she completed her first half marathon. Even back then, she knew she wanted to go farther. With two marathons under her belt, she now looked to do another marathon but wanted to find running buddies, preferably other women, she could train with.
“Finding other women to run with became a priority after the Sundown race,” she said. “The Great Wall of China Adventure Race became my focus in 2010.”
With a new running partner to train with, the pair started to train on different terrains to prepare for the marathon.
“We would do very cool things to train for this race,” Talley said. “We would run six miles, then run high rises instead of hill repeats, and then continue on running. I enjoyed this crazy training more than any of the other training I had done for the past few races.”
The Great Wall of China Marathon changed Talley completely. Knowing now that there was more to running than races on pavement, she was hooked on finding other experiences to add to her running resume.
Talley’s family moved to Vienna, Va., in 2011 and she started looking for new running partners. She created her own group that would train around her neighborhood, but soon the group broke up. After doing some research, Talley found the organization, Moms Run This Town, a national consortium of moms who developed local chapters across the country to organize group runs of various distances and abilities. She called Pam Burrus, the organization’s founder, and decided to start a Vienna-Oakton chapter.
For Talley, finding a group of women is key to helping her settle after a move to a new location. She felt that starting the Vienna-Oakton chapter was the right thing to do. The chapter quickly grew from a few woman to now close to 1,000 members.
“The growth in the chapter meant that I was meeting a lot of new types of runners. I quickly became addicted to trail running, which is where I tend to train on most days. Trail running has sparked new enthusiasm in me and my running,” Talley said.
The interest in trail running has also allowed Talley to push farther, as she is now preparing for her first ultra-distance run, the Seashore Nature Trail 50k.
Sparking Interest in the Ragnar Relays
Talley’s dedication to MRTT has not only moved her to train for longer distance runs, but she is also a bona fide Ragnar junkie. Over the past few years, Talley has trained for a few Ragnar distance races, competing with teams who run through the nights – often to complete 200 miles over 24 hours. Now a Ragnar Relay Ambassador, Tally looks to build teams and compete in as many relays as she can.
Clothing and Style
Talley also boasts a closet full of interesting running gear she’s tested and accumulated. Now a Sparkly Soul Headband Ambassador, “there is a lot of blue, green, orange, black and sparkle” in her wardrobe. Aside from that, Talley also leans toward Nike and Athlete bottoms for training and racing. “In the fall, I wear Nike Capris, a tank or short sleeves with arm warmers and sometimes gloves,” she said.
Talley has Raynaud’s disease, which causes some areas of your body – such as your fingers and toes – to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress, so she tends to keep her gloves on for most of her training runs. On colder days, she uses Icebreaker for her base layer. Icebreaker, an environmentally conscious company that develops sustainable clothing out of sheep’s wool, put a table out on the WO&D Trail – an old railroad trail in the heart of Vienna where many of the MRTT weekend runs start – so that the moms could check out the clothes and the company.
Training for Maximum Impact
When it came to training, Talley had to make some adjustments in order to maintain a life balance. For some time, Talley would train with the moms on the weekends; but when she came home, her house was either empty, or she’d only cross paths with husband Darrin or her children, ages 13 and 10, who were headed out for their own training or weekend schedules.
After some thought and consulting with a fellow mom, Talley decided to stop training with the weekend warriors and change her focus so that she could spend more time with her family. She traded in Saturday training runs for family bike rides.
“I changed my training so that I would run Monday through Friday while my children were at school and my husband was at work,” she said.
Figuring out Nutrition for Her 50K
Figuring out a diet that works for Talley has been a challenge. After trying gus[C1] , gels and beans, Talley switch to real foods like pretzels, peanut butter sandwiches, and Fig Newtons when she was in Singapore, where American food products were hard to find. Back in the states, Talley has had success with Generation Ucan, Energy Bits and Accel gels. “I recently tried a Snickers bar near the end of a run and it gave me a boost for the last two miles, so I might try that again,” she said.
On Injury and What Motivates Her
Talley, who worked as a coach and personal trainer, follows her own advice when it comes to self-motivation and perseverance: “Smile, it makes it easier!” Another quote she keeps stored in her mind to use when training or in creating her artwork (Talley is an accomplished artist) is, “You are only limited by yourself.” In fact, Talley’s training runs have spawned some of the ideas she uses in her artwork.
Like many athletes, Talley has occasionally been sidelined by injury; but she takes it in stride. When the day comes that she cannot run around after her kids due to an injury, she said, she might throw in the towel.
“Being injured makes me reflect back at my training,” Talley explained.
“I think I train smarter now; and most importantly, I try to listen to my body. As I venture into new distances and terrain, I continue to be a student in running – which I hope never changes.”