Professional ultrarunner Sally McRae grew up in sunny Southern California. As a child, she was either playing sports or exploring outside. While she’s been a competitive athlete for most of her life, it wasn’t until after college that she focused on endurance running. She first started running the roads as a way to stay in shape, but never focused on racing. Then, in 2009, she became intrigued with ultramarathons and trail running. Shortly after, in 2010, she ran her first 50-mile trail race and immediately fell in love with the sport. She hasn’t looked back since!
Today, she is a personal trainer, running coach, mom of two, and fitness enthusiast! She enjoys spending her days in the mountains while training and strengthening her body with weights and HIIT workouts. While she loves running, her favorite part of being a trainer is having a front-row seat to her clients’ dreams!
We recently caught up with Sally and she shared more with us about her recent win at the Badwater 135 race, her go-to race day essentials, and tips for first-time 5K racers.
Last month, you had an incredible win at the Badwater 135 race. What was that experience like?
Thank you! It was a dream come true and another incredible opportunity for me to grow as an athlete. I’m excited to take what I learned this year and apply it to other races and adventures in the future.
Setbacks and injuries happen, even to the best of us. How do you cope with bumps in the road? What’s your take on injury prevention?
They’re inevitable for every human so I don’t allow myself to complain about them. I believe accepting setbacks, challenges, and even injuries, then figuring out what you’re supposed to learn and where you’re supposed to improve, and then move forward from there—that’s far more powerful.
Injury prevention is my jam. I’m big into strength training and eating for fuel. I’ve been injury-free for almost a decade and attribute it to these two things.
What are your go-to race day essentials?
Depends on where I’m racing. I’m an ultra-mountain runner, so depending on the mountain terrain or weather, my gear can change. If I’m planning a race on the road, like the Surf City 5K, I keep it simple. I like a soft flask with electrolytes, a Spring energy gel, and a bandana for my wrist.
One of your most commonly used hashtags is #KeepYourHeartUp. What does that mean to you?
It’s two-fold. I teach running biomechanics and it’s one of the quickest ways I can correct someone’s running form—straighten the torso and point your heart at the finish line. It’s also a frame of mind: your mind is powerful in ALL you do and keeping your heart up has everything to do with hope and staying focused on the finish line. Even when the race gets hard or you feel uncomfortable, it’s ALWAYS temporary. Keep that heart up and you’ll get to the finish line strong.
For those preparing for their first 5K race, what tips would you give them?
Show up for yourself every day. I’ve coached athletes all over the world for almost two decades and I’ve learned that regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a pro, we all struggle with doubts about our ability or training. Stop those thoughts and remember that every time you show up to do something, even if it’s just a 10-minute workout, you will get better.
Do something every day to reach your goal: get better sleep, eat nutrient-dense food, or add strength training to your routine. On the days you have a speed workout, embrace the discomfort. Starting ANYTHING is a huge accomplishment in itself. Now keep going every day and before you know it, you’ll be crossing that finish line.
As an ultrarunner, you must have a great way to manage muscle cramps. How do you stave off cramps and deal with them when they arise?
Train all your muscle groups and be sure to get proper calories and electrolytes in.
In our community, there is always a lively, ongoing conversation about how to choose and lace running shoes. How would you guide someone in regards to picking out a fresh pair?
Choose a shoe that fits. Don’t buy shoes that are 1–2 sizes too big. As someone who runs 100+ races up mountains, through all types of weather and terrain, I can attest to this. I don’t get blisters or black toenails and I never buy big shoes. I wear the same size in high heels as I do in my running shoes.
During your travels, what’s been one of your favorite places to train?
This one is difficult. I’ve raced on every continent in the world and everywhere I go, there is breathtaking beauty. If I could only choose one, I must say that the Italian Alps have stolen my heart dozens of times!
Do you have a life philosophy that you live by?
I believe in loving people rather than trying to impress people. This is a powerful tip I give to people who struggle with making goals, starting a new adventure (like a new job or new school), or those who are just going to the gym for the first time. If we understand that we are enough just as we are, then there’s no need to try and earn approval from others. We simply need to love others, no matter what.
After Badwater, what else do you have planned for the remainder of 2021?
I have a few big mountain races on my calendar. Mountains have my heart, so I’ll be spending lots of time on big peaks and racing through some beautiful mountain ranges. I also coach mountain and trail running camps, so I have a couple fall camps planned. Lastly, I’m working on some strength training projects and longer mountain adventures, so stay tuned!
Join Sally McRae live for the Surf City 5K in Huntington Beach, California on Saturday, September 11! Click here to learn more about this Live Race and get ready for a beachy run with Sally and the iFIT Community.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFIT assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.
Opinions of iFIT Trainers are their own and may not be those of iFIT.