In July, the USATF Mountain, Ultra, and Trail Running Council announced the team for the 2016 International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) Trail World Championships. The 52-mile race will be held at the end of October and will traverse the beautiful mountainous border between Portugal and Spain. Incredibly, one of the ten athletes (five male, five female) selected is not only an accomplished ultrarunner, but also a successful Baylor PhD candidate in Philosophy.
Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of Northern New Jersey, Sabrina Little came to Waco after receiving her undergraduate degree at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. There, she raced competitively for the Griffins, but her love for running can be traced back even further. “My first ultramarathon was a bit of an accident,” she recalls. “My mom was in remission from cancer. I like grand gestures, so I ran 100 miles as a fundraiser for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to celebrate her. It was published in the local papers and I received a lot of phone calls about it being one of the fastest 100-mile times in country that year. I actually had no idea it was a sport at that point.” Sabrina immediately enjoyed success in her new sport by winning both 50 and 100 mile races. At the 2013 World Championship, she even set the national record in the 24-hour run by traveling a little over 152 miles and helped lead Team USA to gold.
To compensate for spending 80+ hours a week training, Sabrina likes to intertwine her scholarly interests and personal goals with her athletic pursuits. For instance, training and racing is part of her overall approach to a well-ordered life. “I appreciate the discipline it offers, and it helps me to be a good steward of my body. I sleep, eat, and train intentionally. I try to be very present.” A healthy version of one’s self is important to a lot of the students and professors in the department. “It’s funny because I think the caricature of philosophers is that we can be a bit abstracted and adrift in the cosmos, but people in our department bike, run, rock climb, and garden. They’re not like what I might expect reading Walker Percy.”
Another way Sabrina combines academics and training is through moral pedagogy, or how we teach virtues. She explains, “It’s very easy to read in a book that perseverance is to ‘remain under a burden.’ It’s a very different thing to have those moments daily – in the middle of workouts, when I have to tell myself to remain. Virtues are hard. They feel awful to learn, and I don’t think we understand that just by reading about them. I think I am a more courageous person because I give myself the opportunity to be brave so often in running.”
Sabrina, and her husband, David, have made Waco home. They both attend Baylor and coach a local cross country team at Live Oak Classical School. Because of the city’s elevation of only 38 meters, which she calls “comical” when training for mountainous races, the ultrarunner has to do a lot of hill repeats. “I like them – up and down. It’s like Sisyphus.” She’ll keep training on those hills for the next few weeks before heading to Peneda-Geres National Park in Portugal for the big race.
We wish her the best of luck! Sic’em Sabrina!