Imagine stepping out of your tent where you have camped overnight, putting on your trail shoes and heading up the mountain. Waking up to a gloomy, grey morning but the more you climb, you pop up above the clouds to sunshine, stunning scenic views and a new mountainous region to explore – sounds idyllic (if you enjoy big inclines).
For world mountain running medallist Sara Willhoit (Shrewsbury AC), being immersed in nature and taking on new trails is what fires her love of the sport. We chatted to Sara at the National Running Show recently to find out more about her introduction and journey within mountain running, let’s get to know her better!
A rocky start
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Sara as she first began her running journey eight years ago:
“A couple of friends were doing Conwy Half Marathon and in order to hang out I needed to get running with them. I joined them on some of their steady runs and that is there it all started."
"The first time I joined a club and went to the track I was terrified, so much so that I had to go home as I was so anxious. However, with some friendly encouragement I went back the next week and everyone was so warm and welcoming and I managed to get more into running. I had a bit of imposter syndrome at the start, like I shouldn’t be there which I know is a common thing with new starters, but I had great friends pushing me to try.”
Falling in love with the mountains
Being from Shropshire, Sara is not short of scenic places to run with many fantastic fells on her doorstep and Snowdon close by. The prospect of being the first to catch a sunrise in the morning is what drives her.
“I am a landscape architect by trade, and I adore the views and landscapes that you get to experience during training or a race. Whether I am immersed in the environment or designing it, I am very much passionate about the outdoors."
"I love the exposure of running up high, when you are on a small ridge at the top of a mountain and get into a beautiful flow, it’s amazing. You are often above the clouds with the most fantastic view.”
It is not only the picturesque scenery which attracted Sara to the mountains, but the positivity of the fell running community.
“The mountain running community is so supportive. You can be out there running in pretty hostile environments at times and runners will always look out for each other. If there is ever anyone in trouble, you will always forget about your race and stop to help in any way you can.”
Goals for the future
Having represented Great Britain numerous times, Sara has not become complacent and still strives to better herself with some pretty impressive targets this season.
“This year is the European Championships in May and I aim to make the team for that. I am also targeting the Mountain Running World Cup series of races which take place all over the world. I like to have goals, but for me success is about going above what you ever imagined you could."
"Most importantly though mountain running is all about getting out there and enjoying myself, catching the sunrises and finding some pretty cool ridges to explore.”
Sara Willhoit was one of the four panellists at the National Running Show Q&A session.
You can also read about Sam Harrison (track and road running), Gemma Steel (cross country and road running) and Vinay Joshi (social runner and qualified coach).
Meet members of our Running Family
Want to know more about mountain running?
Are you inspired by Sara and want to learn more about how you can get into mountain running? Find your closest mountain or or fell running club.