Sarah Lavender Smith - UltraRunner

Sarah Lavender Smith

I took up running and training for marathons two decades ago, during graduate school in my mid 20s, and gradually I switched my focus to trail and ran my first trail marathon in 2005, on Mount Diablo. I’ll never forget it because I lined up behind Scott Jurek, who was doing the 50M division as training for Western States, and I thought, “What am I doing lining up behind Scott Jurek?! I have no idea what I’m getting myself into!” I placed 2nd F and near the top overall in that hot, grueling mountain marathon (admittedly, it was a very small, low-profile race) and was hooked.

I’m turning 47 this year and have run some 70 marathons and ultras, most of them trail events. An erstwhile newspaper reporter who got a degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, I’ve been a writer for Trail Runner magazine for nearly ten years, and a couple of years ago I also began co-hosting on a somewhat regular basis. My proudest moments as a trail/ultra runner include: twice finishing as the age-group winner and female podium finisher in the seven-day, self-supported 170-mile Grand to Grand Ultra (2012 and 2014); finishing sub-22 hours and first rookie in my first 100-miler (Rio del Lago 2014); finishing an incredibly slow and painful 32-hour Wasatch 100 in 2015 when I was on the verge of passing out and DNF’ing; winning a 24-hour event with one-mile loops (SF Summer Solstice 2015); and three times pacing and surviving insane weather conditions on stretches of the Hardrock 100, which I hope to get into and complete some day. 

My proudest moments in life involve giving birth to and raising my two kids, who are now 18 and almost 15; and living a nomadic, one-bag-each life for a year in 2009-10 while traveling around the world. During that year, I taught my kids the equivalent of 6th and 3rd grade on the road, developed a popular family travel blog, and participated in as many running events in different countries as possible while traveling. After I returned to our home in the East Bay Area town of Piedmont, I launched my current blog,, to combine my twin passions of trail running and authentic travel. I’m also proud that I’ve studied to be a coach and gained RRCA certification, so I started coaching in 2014 and have helped several dozen clients since then (both road and trail runners, sub-ultra and ultra distance) achieve their goals. When I’m not running, writing or coaching, I devote a great deal of time as a trustee and chair of the Development Committee on the board of the Thacher School, where I went to school and where my kids now attend. I’m also very excited that my husband and I are embarking on an adventure and fulfilling a dream of moving to Colorado to live there part time, where we plan to design and build a cabin near Telluride, across from family property where I spent every summer of my childhood. If anyone wants to visit while training for Hardrock or other high-altitude events, please do!

Hometown: Ojai, CA

Residence: Piedmont, CA (near Oakland), and Telluride, CO

Footwear: Hoka (various models) 

Website: and 


Favorite Beer: If I’m camping, then Dale’s Pale Ale in cans; otherwise, I like any Hefeweizen or Belgian-style ale

Best recovery meal: That’s easy…huevos rancheros: scrambled eggs with cheese, pinto or black beans, salsa and avocado

Guilty Pleasure: Bark Thins chocolate-covered almond with salt

Other Hobbies: Cooking; currently focused on planning and designing a cabin 

Best thing about VFuel: The taste & texture

Favorite running memory: This is an impossible question to answer, because I have no single favorite memory, but I’ll share one: The sensation of finishing my first 100-miler (Rio Del Lago) in the middle of the night running hard and fast, much stronger and faster than I had anticipated, savoring the feeling that I had nailed it and exceeded my goal by finishing sub-22 hours.


Running Accomplishments

2016 Lake Sonoma 50, 17th place

2016 Marin Ultra Challenge 50K, 5th place

2016 Sean O’Brien 50K, 3rd place

2016 Crystal Springs Marathon, 2nd place

2015 Wasatch Front 100, 22nd place

2015 Cinderella Trail Spring 50K, 1st place

2015 Kendall Mountain Run, 29th place

2015 San Francisco Summer Solstice 24 Hour, 1st place

2015 Tarawera Ultra 100K (New Zealand), 20th place

2015 Steep Ravine 50K, 1st place

2014 Rio Del Lago 100, 4th place

2014 Grand to Grand Stage Race, 2nd place

2014 Crystal Springs 50K, 4th place

2014 Miwok 100K, 21st place

2014 Diablo Trails Challenge 50K, 3rd place

2014 Chabot Trail Run 30K, 5th place

2013 Berkeley Trail Adventure 50K, 1st place

2013 Marin Ultra Challenge 50, 4th place

2013 Lake Sonoma 50, 15th place

2013 Way Too Cool 50K, 25th place

2012 North Face Endurance Challenge 50-San Francisco, 23rd place

2012 Diablo Trail Adventure Half Marathon, 2nd place

2012 Grand to Grand Stage Race, 3rd place

2012 Skyline 50K, 40th place

2012 Marin Ultra Challenge 50K, 3rd place

2012 Miwok 100K, 19th place

2012 Brook Falls Trail Run, 1st place

2011 Rodeo Beach 50K, 1st place

2011 North Face Endurance Run 50-San Francisco, 19th place

2011 Ohlone 50K, 3rd place

2011 American River 50, 21st place

2011 Montana de Oro 50K, 2nd place

2010 Dick Collins Firetrails 50, 5th place

2010 Diablo Trail Run 50K, 1st place

2010 Skyline 50K, 2nd place

2010 Sequoia 30K, 1st place

2010 Headlands Marathon, 2nd place

2009 Imogene Pass Run, 32nd place

2009 Ohlone 50K, 4th place

2009 Redwood Park 50K, 2nd place

2009 Diablo Trails Challenge 50K, 2nd place

2008 Rodeo Beach 50K, 1st place

2008 Ohlone 50K, 4th place

2007 Golden Hills Trail Marathon, 1st place

2007 Redwood Park 50K, 1st place

2006 Rodeo Beach 50K, 4th place

2006 Golden Hills Trail Marathon, 2nd place

2006 Redwood Park 30K, 2nd place