"I really believe anyone can run 100 miles if they do it with grit and grace." - Sally McRae

Setting the Pace

Ultramarathoner and Southern California native Sally McRae is making a name for herself and inspiring others around the world - one mile at a time.

It’s safe to call long distance runner Sally McRae superhuman. After all, the Costa Mesa, California native, and Nike Trail athlete travels the world to compete in 100-mile races consisting of steep, rocky terrain spanning mountain ranges such as the prestigious Western States 100-mile Endurance Run from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

But the former soccer player at Biola University and now a mother of two didn’t always think she would become a ultramarathoner. She grew up the middle of five children and initially dreamed of a career as a professional soccer player. “I was so passionate about soccer, and if I had any free time at all, I would go out in the backyard and juggle,” says Sally, who took up running seriously after college.

We sat down with her and learned what a typical day is like, why hydration (and one of her staples, Liquid I.V.) is so important, what it takes to train for a 100-mile race, and what advice she has for runners of any level.

When did you first get into running?
When I was little, I loved anything that involved running, like tag and all of that. My parents signed me up for small city races, and later I made it to state. That was the start, but I don’t think I understood racing and I didn’t find it as exciting as soccer. I dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player.

After college I went to China teach English. We had to teach 14 hours a day. I love traveling and culture, and in the early mornings I would choose a direction and run for an hour, or an hour-and-a-half, to see the city. After doing that for five weeks straight, I came back and told my family, ‘I think I’m going to start running.’

Describe a typical day.
Because I juggle being a mommy, wife and homemaker with being a professional athlete, I have learned to approach every day with grace, knowing that at any moment my schedule could be flipped around. However this has also taught me to be more disciplined with my time. There are daily tasks that need to be accomplished, and my day starts early.

4:30-5 a.m.: wake-up call and 1st workout
6:15-6:30 a.m.: laundry, dishes, pack lunches
6:45-7 a.m.: kids up, make breakfast
7:45 a.m.: walk to school
8 a.m.: Pack training bag and drive to strength and conditioning session
8:30-10:30 a.m.: strength and conditioning at ProStack Sports Performance with Coach Steve Newman
10:30-11:00 a.m.: drive home, refuel in the car
11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.: home, shower, laundry, house chores, return emails, write, sometimes a quick power nap, and fuel up for next workout
1:00-3:00 p.m.: run, usually somewhere on the trails, beach, or track workout
3:00-8:00 p.m.: kids home from school, sports practice, homework, make dinner, house chores, family time, kids’ bedtime
8:00-9:30 p.m.: return emails, read, tea with hubby
9:30-10:00 p.m.: bedtime

How do you train for Western States 100?
I LOVE 100 mile training, particularly because of the weekly long runs where I’ll spend anywhere from five to nine hours in the mountains. I train very race-specific, so the way I train for one 100-mile race will look different from how I train for other 100-mile races-  all depending on the course details: altitude, elevation gain, weather, and trail technicality.