When Sarah Griffith reached the third floor of the community college where she was taking business classes last July, she was completely out of breath. She had to stop and take a break before entering the classroom, because her lungs were in such bad shape.
Griffith, 36, of Westfield, West Virginia, had been smoking two packs a day for the past 19 years. While catching her breath there on the third floor, she realized she needed to do something drastic, and soon.
Within days she had quit smoking, joined a local gym and changed her diet. Going cold turkey, she decided to make exercise her new addiction – and it worked. At the gym, she walked on a treadmill until one day she realized she was walking as fast as some slower runners were running. She thought to herself, I can do that. “One mile was such an accomplishment,” she says.
Griffith wasn’t long for the treadmill, though. She soon graduated to road running. But even that felt limiting. “After a while, you can only go so far,” she says.
From tobacco to the trails
When a friend introduced her to the trails, Griffith got hooked almost immediately.
“I love the trails,” she says. “Trail runners are a whole new group of people who are just so nice. If a trail runner sees someone hunched over during a race, they’ll stop and ask if they’re ok.”
She joined a group of runners training for the Haulin in the Holler 5K/25K/50K in Eleanor, West Virginia, and signed up for the 25K race the very next day.
She purchased a hydration vest and secured the nutrition of her choice, with advice from her friends to eat something every 30 minutes. Her only goal was to finish, though she did one better, finishing in 13th place female.
“I was tickled to see her come across when she did,” says race director Greg Yarborough, an ultrarunner who shares smoking in common with Griffith (Yarborough smoked for 23 years).
Says Griffith, “There was a moment of clarity at the end. I couldn’t believe I had just done it.”
Despite her history of smoking, the hardest part of racing for Griffith isn’t her lungs; it’s mental. “Mile nine or 10, I’m mentally battling. Can I keep going I ask? Yes, you can keep going. It sounds like a weakness but I think it’s a strength.”
A history of trying new things
Griffith is no stranger to trying new things. She works at Diamond Electric- one of her jobs is driving a forklift, which used to scare her. “Now it’s like riding a bicycle,” she says. “I enjoy it.”
When she’s not at work, she attends classes for a degree in Business Management at Bridge Valley Community College and hopes to one day start her own business. “I’m not sure what but I’ve thought about opening my own organic restaurant,” she says, inspired by the plant-based diet she started around the time she quit smoking.
She has given herself a kind of second chance at life and isn’t taking it lightly. She wakes at 4 a.m. every morning, goes to work, runs, goes to school and comes home to do homework. “I’m very motivated with life right now; vicious and driven,” she says. “I see these little 70 or 80 year old women running trails and I want to be them.”
She is signed up for the Dirty Dog 15K near South Charleston, West Virginia in May and wants to try her hand at the 50K loop of the Haulin in the Holler in 2018. Until then, she’ll keep running the trails, working and going to school.
But now when she goes to class, she doesn’t have to fret the stairs to the third floor. She happily explains, “I run them now.”
Trophy Series Update
First: Dan Reifenberg, 450 points, 2 races.
Second, Tie: Brandon Benefield, 400 points, 1 race / Ryan Timme, 400 Points, 1 race.
Third, Tie: Evgeny Sotnikov, 300 points, 1 race / Lavan Hoffman, 300 points, 1 race / Trey Clark, 300 points, 1 race.
First, Tie: Jess Mullen, 400 points, 1 race.Van Phan, Maple Valley WA, 400 points, 2 races / Elaine Stypula, 400 points, 1 race /Caroline Boller, 400 Points, 1 race.
Second, Tie: Helen Summerford, 300 points, 1 race / Un Ruschell, 300 points, 1 race.
Third, Tie: Anne Crispino Tayler, 200 points, 1 race / Leah Ling, 200 points, 1 race / Dena Carr, 200 points, 1 race / Donna Loparo, 200 points, 1 race/ Cathy Downes, 200 points, 1 race/ Janessa Taylor, 200 points, 1 race / Hillary Peabody, Washington, WA, 200 points, 1 race, [email protected] / Genia McKnight, 200 points, 1 race.
10-19: Port Habalar, 114.4 points, 2 races.
20-29: Matt Lipsey, 166.8 points, 3 races.
30-39: Robert Spies, 104.8 points, 2 races.
40-49 TIE: Dave Endress, 101.3 points, 2 races / Daniel McDowell, 101.3 points, 2 races.
50-59: Dale Reicheneder, 340.2 points, 8 races.
60+: Gerald Bailey, 199.3 points, 6 races.
10-19: Mallory Lovell, 119.0 points, 2 races.
20-29: Johanna Ohm, 98.9 points, 2 races.
30-39: Brianna Bair, 98.9 points, 2 races.
40-49: Meira Minard, 235.6 points, 5 races.
50-59: Carole Dudukovich, 235.6 points, 5 races.
60+: Jane Kone, 151.3 points, 3 races.
Run the most races
First: Samantha Weaver, 116.1 miles, 9 races,.
Second: Dale Reicheneder, 98.12 miles, 8 races.
Third: Gerald Bailey, 70.06 miles, 6 races.
Run the most miles
First: Matt Campbell, 181 actual miles, 3 races.
Second TIE: Van Phan, 150 actual miles, 2 races / Dan Reifenberg, 150 actual miles, 2 races.