Shari Sullivan-Marshall takes second at USATF Nationals
Written by Than Acuff
Wednesday, 07 November 2012
“It was one of the hardest trail races I’ve ever done”
In addition to coaching the Titans high school cross-country team, teaching fourth graders at the Crested Butte Community School and being a mom and wife, Shari Sullivan-Marshall somehow finds time for trail running training and competing.
Her season came to a climax this past week when Sullivan-Marshall and head coach Connie Hayden coached the Titans boys team to a third-place finish at the 2A state championships on Saturday, October 27. A week later on Saturday, November 3, Sullivan-Marshall placed second in the masters class, 16th overall, at the USA Track and Field trail running national championships in Moab, Utah.
Sullivan-Marshall came into the fall season on a roll, including placing second among Masters women in the Pikes Peak Ascent in August. The start of school and coaching didn’t slow her down as she proceeded to run with her team during training after school.
“I always run with them,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “That’s how I coach best. No one else runs with 16-year-olds—it definitely keeps my turnover faster.”
Remarkably, that wasn’t enough for Sullivan-Marshall, as she also woke up early three days a week to get additional training in before heading off to teach.
“I have to get my other miles in,” she admits.
On September 16, she continued her charge on the trail-running scene, winning the Masters division, finishing second overall, in the Lead King Loop, the USATF Colorado Association 25-kilometer Trail Championships.
Needless to say, she was in peak form heading into the national championships in Moab.
“I felt confident I had what I needed,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
She had her eyes on the prize heading into the race, expecting to either win or take second in the Masters class and set an additional goal of placing top 10 overall. But as she lined up Saturday morning, she recognized the faces of a lot of elite women runners and scaled her ancillary goal back to top 20 overall.
In addition to the level of competition on hand, the racecourse was intense.
While billed as the trail running national championships, the course blurred the line between trail running and adventure racing. Starting in Cane Creek, the course wound in and out, up and down, over and on the edge of numerous drainages in the area. Footing was a mix of deep sand, loose rocky descents along cliff edges and straight up ladders (three ladders total), slick rock ascents and descents, with some requiring ropes to hold onto. Not to mention random culverts along the way, through which runners were required to run. At the 14-mile mark, the course jacked up a 12 percent grade for over a mile. The race finished with a 50-meter scramble up a loose hillside.
“It was one of the hardest trail races I’ve ever done,” says Sullivan-Marshall. “The last five miles I was like, ‘Really?’ It was humorous.”
With such a mixed course, time goals for Sullivan-Marshall were thrown out the window, which she actually enjoyed.
“It was kind of nice to run without that pressure,” explains Sullivan-Marshall. “It was really just about placing.”
At mile 16, Sullivan-Marshall passed a Masters woman who she knew was one of the contenders for the title and proceeded to build a healthy gap.
“I knew then I was maybe first or second,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
Marshall eventually finished the course in a time of four hours, 17 minutes and 52 seconds, nine minutes back from the winner and in 16th place overall, taking home $110 credit toward any pair of Merrell shoes.
“I’m super happy with my overall finish,” says Sullivan-Marshall.
She will now take “a week off, maybe two” from training with the summer/fall racing season over, but she already has her sights set on returning to Moab for another race in February.