By David Fleet
Prior to 2014, Sarah Evans can’t recall running more than three miles at one time.
“Just when you think you can’t, you can,” said Evans, a former Brandon Township resident and 2008 Grand Blanc High School graduate.
Just eight years later, Evans reached a pinnacle of athleticism, endurance and dedication reached only by just a few.
Last month, Evans completed the Leadville Trail 100 mile run, an annual ultra-marathon etched in the heart of the Rocky Mountains near Leadville, Co. southwest of Denver. The trail was established in 1983, and features a 50-mile race course which climbs and descends with elevations ranging from about 9,200 to 12,620 feet. Runners have a 30-hour time limit to race out 50 miles and return 50 miles to the finish line.
Sarah along with husband Brandon moved to Buena Vista, Co. about seven years ago and teaches ninth grade physical science at Salida High School in nearby Salida. The couple has a three-year old daughter Brynnly,
Evan’s road to Leadville started with her first triathlon in 2014, a race entered for her soon to be husband Brandon. Following a seven year gauntlet of ultra-races in January 2022 she started an intense training program for the Leadville 100 that often ranged from 65-75 miles over a six day period.
So at, 4 a.m., Aug. 20, Evans, 32, left downtown Leadville at 10,200 feet elevation, on the 100 mile race.
For the first 23 miles the runners stayed in a conga-like line, recalled Evan.
“The course, which I trained on prior to the race, is very well marked even in the wilderness, but my biggest concern was making all of the aid stations. Each one had cut-off times that runners had to make to continue, otherwise you’re just not going to make the 30 hour limit.”
At an Hagerman Pass (11,938 feet) the race spread out, she said.
“I was aiming for 9:30 minutes per mile on the flat areas,” said Evans.
More than a lack of sleep is eating and drinking while running, that takes more runners out than anything. You have to learn how to eat every 15 minutes, it’s really a science. I was moving for 100 miles, when you get into the ultra-world, it’s how fast you can power hike the up and you can run the down.”
Evans said she did not fear the wildlife or remoteness of the Leadville course.
“I knew where I was going the entire race,” she said. “The organizers did a fantastic job.”
While the distance running helped with the training, foot-band work each day was the key to staying healthy. In addition, she selected Altra Lone Peak brand shoes for the race.
“I took four pairs and used two,” she said. “But everyone is different.”
A combination of power-hiking and running, she completed the course in 29 hours and 29 minutes under the required time.
“I had an amazing support system, my husband got me out there when I did not want to train,” she said. “Since January, I have had nothing to think about but running and working. My mother would visit in the summer to look after their three-year-old daughter.”
“I am so thankful for all of my support,” she said. “Crewing for a 100 mile runner is just as hard as running the 100 miles. My husband Brandon, friends Charles, Andrea, Joe, Lizzy and family–daughter Brynnly, mom, dad, step mom Kim, Nonny and poppy and grandparents Hernandez were all there to crew.”
By David Fleet