Meet the 2023 Gutsy Girls Fundraiser Recipient: Sarah Pendergrass & her 700km Scottish Trail Run

We have some great news Gutsy Girls! We have found the perfect fit for our 2023 film festival Fundraiser recipient and she is one heck of a bad (L)ass!

Meet Sarah Pendergrass, the fearless adventurer who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey of trail running her own mapped out route. Stretching 700kms from the bottom of her homeland in Scotland, to the top. Born in the UK and now residing in Australia, Sarah’s love for sports and the great outdoors has transformed her into an avid endurance enthusiast. From running on the trails of Noosa to mapping her own adventures, Sarah’s passion for self-propelled missions on foot or bicycle knows no bounds. 

Today, we dive into her world as she prepares to take on the monumental challenge of the Scotland 700km Trail Run, lovingly named “Light to Light.”

The Mission at a glance

  • Connecting a love for lighthouses; running from the most southerly point of Scotland, at the Mull of Galloway lighthouse to the most northerly point of the Outer Hebrides, the Butt of Lewis lighthouse, naming the expedition, “LIght to Light”.
  • Self-mapped route connecting long distance trails – totalling around 700kms with over 12000m ascent; predominantly offroad, on trail. 
  • In addition to running on the mainland, Sarah will run the 250km Hebridean Way, crossing ten remote islands; three ferry crossings and six causeways.
  • Kick off August 21 2023.
  • Averaging around 30km a day, with longest days just shy of 50km.
  • Finishing on Sarah’s 40th birthday, 13 September. 
  • Running solo, with the option for local runners to share a few miles.
  • Supported by a friend of over 20 years (university lacrosse coach), George Agnew and his dog Tidbin, who will carry the gear from camp to camp in his van and assist with resupply etc.
  • Sarah’s mother is Scottish and Sarah grew up, studied and worked in Scotland post university – this is a way of reconnecting with the land and experiencing trails, landscapes and communities she has never visited before.  
  • The route links, the Mull of Galloway Trail, the Ayrshire Coastal Path, the Clyde Coastal Path, the West Highland Way and the Hebridean Way.

Above image: Sarah training with Ness, her coach 

Woah what an adventure! 

But of course with an adventure like this and in true Gutsy Girls spirit, Sarah will be raising money for a charity and cause that she holds dear and something that we too at the Gutsy Girls Adventure Film Tour aim to fight for with our festivals every year.

Free To Run is Sarah’s chosen charity. She first encountered this organisation through its founder, Stephanie Case, a remarkable Canadian ultra-runner. Stephanie’s story captivated Sarah, showcasing her dedication to running in conflict zones as a human rights lawyer. Free to Run’s mission resonates deeply with Sarah, as it aims to drive change in community gender norms by empowering adolescent girls and young women through running. Sarah recognises the privilege she enjoys, being able to run freely and safely in her own country, and she believes that all women around the world should have the same freedom. Free to Run’s programs in locations like Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate the transformative power of sport in fostering cultural change and empowering women in public spaces.

The Fundraising plan at a glance

  • Sarah will be running as an ambassador for Free to Run 
  • Free to Run is an NGO, founded by Canadian ultra-runner and UN Human Rights Lawyer, Stephanie Case, that believes in empowerment through sport; challenging gender norms and supporting the visibility of women in public spaces – especially in areas of conflict including Afghanistan and Iraq, where sport participation for women is often a counter-cultural act.
  • Free to Run mission: “Drive change in community gender norms in conflict areas by supporting adolescent girls and young women to advance their leadership and wellness through running”
  • You can see an incredible short film about Free to Run, put together by The North Face. Watch FREE TO RUN on YouTube.
  • Impact: EXPANDING SOCIAL ACCESS: 34% of the parents/caregivers in Afghanistan disagreed with the statement “a woman should be able to go wherever she wants outside” at the start of their daughters participation in our program, compared with 86% at the end. 
  • 80% of participants see themselves as “equal to boys” following a year in the program, compared to just 50% at the start of the program.

The Inspiration

So, what inspired Sarah to undertake such a monumental feat? For her, the answer lies in the depth of the question itself. She believes that the true essence of one’s “why” emerges during the toughest moments of an adventure, when doubts creep in and perseverance is tested. The idea of running the Scotland 700km Trail has been brewing in Sarah’s mind and heart since 2017. As a native of Scotland who never experienced trail running while living there, this endeavour provides a unique opportunity for her to connect with the land and explore 700 kilometres of unseen trails. It’s also a chance to push her own limits, express gratitude for her body and adventurous spirit, and inspire others to pursue their dreams, no matter how audacious they may seem.

Throughout her life, Sarah has drawn inspiration from a diverse array of people. Trail runners and bikepackers in her local community have motivated her, while high-profile female adventurers like Jenny Tough, Lael Wilcox, and Anna McNuff have fueled her aspirations. Anna’s book, “The Pants of Perspective,” which details her fastpacking journey on New Zealand’s Te Araroa trail, ignited Sarah’s determination to create her own multi-day adventure on foot.

(Above) Image 1: Sarah amidst a solo 700km self-mapped ride off-road through remote Outback Queensland. The route “The Sandstone Wilderness 700” will feature in the Lonely Planet Epic Rides of Australia and New Zealand book, releasing August 2023. Image 2:  Sarah enjoying a trail run with her canine companion.

Where will the donations go?

By supporting Free to Run through her fundraising efforts, Sarah envisions the funds being utilised in various impactful ways, 

“The organisation plans to expand its programming in Iraq and Afghanistan and explore a third geography in 2024. They aim to establish small offices in Iraq, expand operations to other provinces, and empower local staff to promote women’s rights to young Internally Displaced People. Additionally, program costs, such as gear, books for girls, and expenses for hiking and camping trips, will be covered. The allocation of funds also includes global operational costs, which are kept minimal due to the organisation’s lean structure.”

Being backed by the entire Gutsy Girls Adventure Film Tour community means the world to Sarah. The news of our support left her brimming with excitement, sleep eluding her that night. She has long been an admirer of the tour and consistently leaves the screenings feeling joyful and inspired to pursue her own passions. Having this community rally behind her is a testament to the power of collective encouragement, and Sarah hopes to give back and inspire others just as she has been inspired.

The Message

Through this epic run, Sarah aims to convey a powerful message to the world. She believes that one does not necessarily need to see success in order to believe in it. By following the calling of their hearts and embracing the adventures that ignite their spirits, individuals can witness the incredible ways everything falls into place. Sarah also wants to highlight the privilege that many of us enjoy and emphasise the importance of using that privilege to amplify the voices of others who are not granted the same freedoms. In the words of Stephanie Case, founder of Free to Run, “We need to just go for things even if we have no chance of being able to succeed—because you just don’t know.”

(Above) Image 1: Sarah experiencing harsh conditions during her first ultra marathon – 55km – around the circumference of the Isle of Tiree while on a visit back to Scotland in 2017. Image 2: Adventuring in Scotland.

What you can do

As Sarah Pendergrass sets out on her “Light to Light” journey across the Scotland 700km Trail, she embodies the spirit of adventure, resilience, and empathy. Her commitment to Free to Run’s cause and her unwavering determination to conquer this monumental challenge serves as an inspiration to us all. Let us stand alongside Sarah, supporting her as she blazes a trail that encourages us to chase our dreams, push our boundaries, and uplift those who need our voices the most. Together, we can make a difference, one step at a time.

At every Gutsy Girls Adventure Film Tour screening we will be selling bracelets and $5 from every sale will go towards helping Sarah succeed on this monumental feat.

So get your tickets to this year’s film festival HERE and let’s come together to support Sarah’s incredible efforts!

Additionally, if you would like to give some extra support you can donate directly to Sarah’s fundraising goal of US $3, 500 HERE

Follow Sarah’s journey on Instagram HERE

(Above image) Sarah camping and adventuring with her pup, we love ourselves a bit of puppy luurrrve!

Interesting Facts & Adventure Background 

  • Sarah ran her first road marathon in Sydney in 2012 and swore she would never run another marathon – before discovering trail running on moving to the Sunshine Coast 
  • Ran her first ultra marathon – 55km – around the circumference of the Isle of Tiree while on a visit back to Scotland in 2017
  • Since then has run numerous trail marathons and ultras, including a podium finish at Beerwah at Night trail marathon and finishing second female “loser” at a last man standing – running 67.5km over 45 laps of the Nerang 1.5km bitumen crit track
  • General adventure: taken on many solo overnight and multi-day missions on bike and foot all over the world, including a solo 700km self-mapped ride off-road through remote Outback Queensland. The route “The Sandstone Wilderness 700” will feature in the Lonely Planet Epic Rides of Australia and New Zealand book, releasing August 2023 
  • In spite of being a severe asthmatic as a child, and nearly losing her life to asthma, grew up playing team sports, including representing Scotland in hockey and lacrosse at junior, U19, U21 and senior levels. First trip to Australia was to represent Scotland U19s at the U19 World Championships at the WACA in 1999

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