It took a lot of convincing to get Sarah Blaha to join the cross country team for her Senior year of high school. After running as a sophomore she had suffered through severe shin splints nearly every track season and with not running much since that sophomore season three miles seemed like a long way. After striking a deal that she would “still get to enjoy her Senior year,” Blaha joined the team and improved rapidly. Initially not wanting to run many races due to her history of injury it wasn’t long before she was asking to not be held back any more and blossomed into one of the best runners in Valley Christian history. She was a key contributor to that year’s team finishing the season as the #3 runner for the Warriors that included a breakthrough run on the treacherous Mt. Sac course where she remains #6 all-time for the Warriors. Currently a freshman at the University of Missouri, Sarah recently finished the Spirit of St. Louis Marathon in less than 4 hours! It was the first marathon for the 2011 Valley Christian graduate who now has plans for more half marathons this summer!
Q: Congratulations on finishing your first marathon! How does it feel to have completed the big 26.2?
It is so satisfying and I am proud of my efforts!
Q: Can you tell us about the training and commitment it takes to run a marathon?
The training took a lot of work and a huge time commitment. I started training officially training in November, but had been running consistently before. So the additional mileage was not a huge problem for me (and my body). The real challenge was how on earth I could set aside time to run! Many days I literally planned my whole school day around a two hour+ workout. The longest run I did was a 20 mile run over spring break. I'm overall pleased with how I prepared.
Q: What was the hardest part of running the marathon? Was it as difficult as you expected?
The running part of the race was actually not as difficult as I anticipated! Many marathoners warned me about hitting a wall around mile 18, but I didn't hit a physical or mental wall until 21. Thankfully a family friend ran the last six miles with me, so she was a great help for those last hills and few miles.
Q: 26.2 miles is a long ways to run. What helped you get through to the finish?
To make the race more of a challenge, of course, my Ipod just quit working around mile 12! I prayed for about everything and everyone I could think of for the next eight miles! It was a perfect reminder that my success in the race, let alone my ability to run, comes from God. Without my ipod, it sounds funny, but I realized I needed to rely on Him for mental distraction and physical strength to finish the race.
Q: How did you feel crossing the finish line of your first marathon?
When I finished the race all I could think about was water!!! But two days later, I'm actually a little nostalgic! Having a lofty goal was very motivating.
Q: It is said that you only sign up for another marathon when you forget how painful the last one was. Now that you have finished one, any plans for another one in the future?
For now, I'm content with my accomplishment and so thankful for the support and encouragement I have received from my family, friends, and of course, VC coaches! I guess from here I get to improve my time. I would LOVE to run the Marine Core Marathon with my twin sister this October! But I'll see how my summer half marathons feel.
Q: Did persevering through injuries in high school make you a stronger runner today?
Most definitely! Not being able to complete a full athletic season until my senior year of xc definitely taught me alot about perseverance. I also learned invaluable practical knowledge about cross training, icing, stretching, and strength training through all my seasons in the trainer and on the side lines getting stronger.
Q: Not running much more than 5-6 miles in high school, what inspired you to try a marathon?
I made an official bucket list my junior year of high school! Senior year i added different goals and decided it was time to get down to business. When my sorority advertised for a relay marathon team, I thought, "Heck! Why only run six, I'm going to run the whole thing." So I called my parents that afternoon and said "I'm running a marathon!" They laughed and were unsure what to think at first, but were, of course, totally supportive.
Q: What advice do you have for someone running their first marathon? Don't be daunted by the enormity of the goal! Give yourself plenty of time (five months) to train and get your mileage up. And always keep your ultimate goal in mind! That will help you not to stress out or beat yourself up for missing a day or for doing one shorter run every so often. Training schedules are rough guidelines; don't be so consumed you forget to consider your body. Also, make it public! The more people you tell the harder it is to back out.
Q: And to runners who think 6-7 miles is a "long run," what advice do you have on how to push the boundaries and take their running to the next level?
Think about how amazing dessert will taste that night... just kidding! On a more serious note, and in the immortal words of Kelly Clarkson, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" These words and remembering that God is the true provider of strength are two amazing inspirations.
Q: Lastly, What's the story of the running skirt? Starting a new fad?
The running skirt was all thanks to my family friend! Nothing like something fun to inspire you we figured! I was nervous about the chaffing but it is probably the most comfy thing I've ever run in, props to LuLuLemon. With a great pocket too.