UNVEILING GRIT: SARAH PENDERGRASS’ 675KM TRAIL RUN TRIUMPH

In the wake of Sarah Pendergrass’ awe-inspiring 675 km trail run spanning the length of Scotland, we delve deep into the grit and determination that propelled her through this monumental journey. Following an exclusive post-run interview with Sarah, we uncover the intricate details behind her remarkable accomplishment. This follow-up blog post peels back the layers, revealing the challenges faced, the triumphs celebrated, and the unwavering spirit that led Sarah to achieve what many deemed impossible. Join us as we unravel the inspiring tale of resilience, perseverance, and the sheer willpower that drove Sarah Pendergrass to conquer the Scottish trails, one step at a time.

Sarah Pendergrass, the fearless adventurer, embarked on an extraordinary journey of trail running her own mapped-out route. The route stretched 675 kms from the bottom of her homeland in Scotland to the top.

The journey must have been physically demanding. What kind of physical challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

Having never covered this sort of mileage (averaging around 30 km on trail a day for 23 days), I wasn’t sure what to expect from my body. The main physical challenges were (probably unsurprisingly!) fatigued legs and sore feet. The soles of my feet were incredibly achy and sore and at times I was just desperate to get off them. The trail surfaces in Scotland are pretty different to Queensland and the rocks took their toll! I also had to navigate having absolutely soaking wet feet from miles of wading through and getting sucked into a bog, and was glad to have taken a rotation of three pairs of running shoes. I’d stick newspaper in them overnight to help them dry and hope for semi dry feet to start each day. I took nearly one million steps over the course of 23 days, and my feet definitely felt the impact! 

Scotland’s weather can be quite unpredictable. How did you prepare for and adapt to the different weather conditions during your run?

I actually massively lucked out with the weather for the most part. I had prepared myself for a lot of rain – the west coast of Scotland in particular (which was my route) is notorious for its rainfall. However I enjoyed numerous dry, sunny, blue sky days which were incredible. That being said, the wind was often absolutely relentless and I was glad I had chosen to run south to north, because of the prevailing wind, so it was mainly at my back. I always carried a waterproof jacket with me each day and a merino wool layer and as I headed north, my waterproof pants were regularly on too as the weather turned wilder.

Camping in a tent and roughing it for such a long distance is quite an adventure! Can you describe some memorable moments or challenges you encountered while camping along the trail?

Camping in a tent undoubtedly added to the difficulty level. If I’d been in accommodation with a roof over my head and a bathroom and kitchen etc, it would have been totally different. There were definitely highs and lows to choosing to sleep in a tent. As time went on and my body became more achey, crawling in and out of the tent wasn’t my favourite thing! It was also really cold (single figures) some nights and even though I had a fantastic sleep set up, I was wearing two puffer jackets and merino wool base layers and couldn’t sleep, shivering away. Sleep was also pretty disrupted on nights where the wind was battering the tent – I’m super accustomed to sleeping in a tent but am also always semi on guard in weather conditions like that. Sleep is so important for recovery – that wasn’t ideal. Additionally, camping leaves you pretty exposed to the well known, very bitey, Scottish midge! 

That being said, there were absolute highs experienced because of the camping factor – I pitched the tent in some really incredible spots – the Outer Hebrides being my favourite; camping behind the sand dunes of empty white sandy beaches with crystal clear, bright blue water. There were some really memorable sunsets and sunrises from behind the mesh door of the tent. 

Amidst the trail’, image by Sarah Pendergrass

Maintaining motivation during tough times is crucial in achieving such a goal. What strategies or techniques did you use to keep yourself motivated when things got particularly challenging?

There were certainly challenging times, and being very solid in my reason for being out there, helped me along the way. I’d also play little games with myself, like packing a treat which I could only eat after xx kms; or wearing bright earrings I wouldn’t typically wear, just to bring some colour and simple joy! On some of the longer days (up to ten hours), I’d listen to podcasts towards the end of the day. I typically prefer to just be in silence in nature and hear my surroundings, but there were some days when the distraction was helpful. I also brought myself back to the present and gratitude for creating the opportunity to simply be out there, moving through nature, and reminding myself that not everyone has this privilege. 

Were there any unexpected obstacles or setbacks during your run, and how did you handle them?

I’m pretty sure I had COVID, starting around Day 9… At the time I thought my body was just reacting to the sudden huge mileage, straight after a long haul flight… The aches I was experiencing in my legs and body were unreal and I couldn’t regulate my temperature – I had constant chills at times when it was pretty warm. My Mum stayed a night with me during that time and a few days later, tested positive for COVID… Those were some really, really tough days and I half can’t believe I continued on. On those days I just promised myself I’d put one foot in front of the other and see what I could do – they were days of walking; not running – I was just shattered beyond anything I’d previously experienced. If I took a rest day, due to my tight timeline in between my international flights, I’d have had to miss sections of my route, which I really didn’t want to do – it felt important to me that it was a true point to point adventure!

Running through Scotland must have allowed you to experience some breathtaking landscapes. Can you share some of your favourite scenic moments from your journey?

The West Highland Way, with its vast glacial valleys and stunning mountains/munros was definitely a favourite. I’m also so glad I hopped off (via a five hour ferry journey) to the Outer Hebrides. It’s a remote chain of islands, connected by little ferries and causeways and each island has its own unique feel – from vast, white sand beaches; to endless lochans and rolling hills; to bigger mountains and open moorland. I picked a really beautiful time of year with all of the heather in bright pink and purple bloom. 

‘Light to Light’ image by Sarah Pendergrass

Trail running for 675km is a significant physical and mental challenge. How did this accomplishment change or shape your perspective on life and your future goals?

While I was out there I was reminded of how capable I am. I love to “think on my feet” (pardon the pun) and problem solve along the way – and that’s a huge element of this type of multiday adventure. I was also reminded that when I set my heart and head on something fully aligned with my desires and my values; I’ll accomplish it. My confidence in myself soars in these environments and that’s something i try to carry into life beyond adventure. 

For those who are inspired by your journey and want to undertake similar challenges, what advice would you give them?

Don’t overthink it. If your idea feels good in your heart and in alignment with you; regardless of what anyone else may think about it; you can make it happen.

I like this quote from Stephanie Case (founder of Free to Run, the NGO I was fundraising for) when it comes to this: “We need to just go for things even if we have no chance of being able to success – because you just don’t know.”

Sarah at the Finish on her 40th Birthday!

After completing this incredible journey, do you have any plans for future adventures or goals you’d like to pursue?

I really missed my trail dog, Ness, who did all of the training with me, so I’m keen to map out a multi day adventure with her in Oz. I’m also excited to have time to ride my bike again and am keen to bikepack the length of New Zealand next year, if life allows for it! It’s been on my radar for a few years now. 

Lastly, how do you plan to celebrate this epic accomplishment?!!

Well, I finished on my 40th birthday so there was cake!

Woo!

A massive thanks to Sarah Pendergrass for chatting to us post run triumph and providing these epic pictures! We can’t wait to see what she does next, follow her next moves HERE

DID YOU KNOW? You can now stream the 2023 Gutsy Girls Film Tour right from Adventure Reels TV HERE

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