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From Heartbreak to Ultras: Sarah Ter Har

Sarah Ter Har
Year started: 1994
Favorite gear:

Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Hydration Vest. It’s comfortable and holds everything, whether I’m running light or doing a long self-supported run, plus it’s machine washable.

It all started with Sarah’s first heartbreak in high school. She was a sophomore looking for an outlet and escape when a female friend suggested she join her on the track team. Having never been much of an athlete, Sarah was hesitant, but decided to give it a try. She started running shorter distances but soon found she preferred the trails and hills of cross country over the track’s flat loops. Something about pushing herself up inclines and over natural terrain just felt right. Her path would eventually lead her heartbreak to ultras.

Ups and Downs of Life

Running became Sarah’s meditation through the rest of high school and into adulthood. It was one constant she could carry with her through the ups and downs of life. In her late 30s, newly divorced with a young child to co-parent, Sarah returned to trail running to help her through the turbulent transition. Getting out on the trails she had loved earlier in life grounded Sarah during a chaotic time when so many other changes were happening. 

Pushing Her Mental and Physical Limits

Over three years, Sarah’s passion for trail and ultra running grew. She had a strong base as a runner from her years of consistency. The trails really called to her soul. When Sarah met her now-husband, also an avid runner and Biomechanist, they bonded over runs and adventures. However, Sarah continued to battle shin splints. A comprehensive gait analysis revealed subtle flaws in her form that were causing the chronic pain. Adjusting those habits was challenging, but over a year and a half of focused training Sarah slowly built new neuromuscular patterns.

She eventually ran a smooth, strong half marathon pain-free alongside her husband, validation after so much frustration. Shortly after, he asked almost casually if Sarah had ever considered training for ultramarathons. Sarah had been regularly doing runs in the mountains and loved pushing her mental and physical limits on ever-longer wilderness trail runs. It was time to put it to the test. Seven months later, Sarah’s journey from heartbreak to ultras would come full circle with her first 50K finish.

The Mysterious Injury

Bitten hard now by the ultra bug, Sarah excitedly set her sights on the 100-mile distance as her next goal. But an injury just 11 miles into the 35-mile Santa Barbara 9 trails derailed everything. Her foot and hip hurt so badly that in the last few painful miles Sarah had to use a tree branch as an improvised crutch to make it back to the finish. The mysterious injury kept Sarah off the trails for 11 long, depressing months.

The first doctor found inflammation in her foot but no clear cause no matter how many tests he ran. Sarah tried various failed treatments and therapy approaches until they finally discovered a hidden metatarsal strain that hadn’t shown up on imaging. For much of that recovery time even basic cross training was impossible; not being able to run at all took both a physical and mental toll. Running had become far more than just exercise; it was Sarah’s daily sanctuary and creative inspiration. Having to mostly sit around left her frustrated and anxious. Now finally back to running, she recently completed the Santa Monica Backbone Trail 68 miles point to point, and her foot continues to feel strong.  

Helping New Runners Achieve Goals

Sarah coaches all levels of runners looking to improve their own running journey through her business, Vuori Running . Helping runners achieve goals that once seemed unattainable brings Sarah great joy. She coaches beginners looking to run their first trail, to higher level competitive athletes trying to reach new goals, nab an FKT or run extreme distances such multi-day 200 mile+ events.

She draws from decades of experience to set customized training plans catering to individuals’ biomechanics, lifestyles and priorities. When one of “her runners” runs their first trail race, qualifies for Boston, or finishes an ultra thanks to her coaching, it’s incredibly rewarding on a deep level.

Sarah wants to support as many people as possible in making running the overwhelmingly positive force it’s been in her own life. Sarah’s running path has been far from straight, but every twist, turn and false summit taught her something that allows her to keep pursuing this sport she loves. Her journey from heartbreak to ultras has been nothing short of inspiring