MARCH Featured Athlete - Brianna Sacks Sport - Ultra Trail Runner
I fell in love with running because it showed me a side of myself that I never knew existed: a fearless, joyful, tough, spontaneous, and determined part that, for most of my life, had lurked beneath layers of self-doubt, self-hatred, and anxiety. For 25 years, I had doubted my own power and ability. In college, I flirted with the idea of running, finding a beginner's half-marathon training plan and logging slow miles on the treadmill.
I remember the shock and elation when I hit six miles, but, after a few runs outside, I stopped.Running made me anxious. I feared running with others, I believed that I wouldn't be able to keep up, that I would embarrass myself. In 2010, I had a breakthrough thanks to a break-up.
I found solace along the sidewalks of my home-town and soon, three miles turned to five and, nine months later, I finally finished my first half-marathon in San Francisco and I was hooked. But the dark thoughts came back. The smothering, choking barrage of "you can't do this" and "you aren't strong enough's" gave me panic attacks during races. I broke down in tears during runs, hating myself for being weak, for giving in and giving up. Then, four years and many miserable miles later, I met a coach named Jimmy Dean Freeman and made it onto NutriBullet's LA Marathon training team, which was filled with wonderful, strong, and vivacious trail runners. After several tries, they convinced me to join a sunrise Coyote trail run. I was terrified, but I showed up and, as corny as it sounds, it changed my life. I kept coming back every week, hanging at the back of the pack and coaxing myself to last longer than the time before. I applauded myself for milestones and found an inner sense of peace and pride. I'll never forget the feeling when I finished my first-ever trail race, a 15k in Topanga. Never had a medal meant so much, because I had finally realized that, despite how overwhelming they were, I was not my thoughts. I was, much to my own surprise, strong and fast and gritty. And, most importantly, I was joyful. Running and I quickly became inseparable. A year later, I was flying down Ray Miller's single track toward the finish line of my first 50k, blasting music and flashing a huge smile. Six months after that, I qualified for Boston. Twice. In the same month. I've now run a handful of 50-milers; finished sixth woman and first in my age group at San Diego 100, my first 100-miler; paced and crewed a world-record holder at Badwater; traversed across Colorado for six-days to finish fifth at TransRockies; ran in the Speed Project, and have had a slew of other amazing running adventures with even more amazing people. It's hard to believe in yourself, to trust that you are capable to accomplish what frightens you. I still get stuck in my own self-doubt. Right now, I'm climbing out of a long, dark, painful, slump after a foot injury that has made me feel like I fell right back into the small, dark place I had overcome. It's scary and I feel lost, but the point is that I am climbing. And thanks to friends like Julio Diaz at VFE, I'm getting close to the surface. Trail running, is, after all, just like life. It's highs and lows and pain and sunrises and humbling terrain and finding yourself along the way. It's growth. I'm now coaching two new runners, one of whom is my brother, to run their first marathon, LA. Often, they'll text me after six miles: "That was so hard. How am I going to run all that way!?" I know, I say, hear you. But just wait, I promise. You will.