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5 Things I've Learnt from Ultrarunner Sally McRae

5 Things I've Learnt from Ultrarunner Sally McRae

This year I've become borderline obsessed with the concept of ultrarunning. I've watched countless documentaries, read books, listened to podcasts and followed some amazing ultra runners on social media.

My favourite, Sally McRae is built different. Different gravy, as they say.

Sally isn't just an ultrarunner; she's a force of nature on and off the trails, inspiring countless individuals with her grit, determination, and unyielding spirit. Her journey from a collegiate athlete to becoming a renowned figure in the ultrarunning community is a testament to her resilience and passion for pushing the limits.

With numerous ultramarathon victories under her belt and a relentless pursuit of excellence, McRae embodies the essence of perseverance and serves as a beacon of inspiration for both seasoned athletes and aspiring runners alike.

In her podcast, 'Choose Strong', Sally often shares the story of how physically she's not built like many ultrarunners. With her soccer (football) background, she has always prioritised strength training, perhaps more than other runners.

Through her experiences and wisdom, she imparts invaluable lessons that extend far beyond the realms of running, offering profound insights into life's endurance race.

Here are the five things that I've learnt from Sally McRae after listening to her podcast, watching her documentaries and reading her book:

#1 Strength is a choice

In Sally McRae's world, the first lesson transcends the physical act of running—it's a philosophy that resonates deeply: "Choose Stong". For McRae, this mantra isn't confined to the miles logged or the races conquered; it's a mindset that permeates every facet of her being.

I love the way Sally delivers her message about 'Choose Strong'. It's not a 'straight-arm to the chest' about how you should be tougher, stop-being-a-wimp type of commentary we're often exposed to from fitness gurus. It's a calm and positive approach to making a conscious decision about what you're capable of doing, and achieving.

It's the conscious decision to embrace challenges, to weather adversity, and to confront discomfort head-on. In choosing strength, she embodies the resilience to push through moments of exhaustion, doubt, and pain. Especially pain. This lesson extends beyond the trails, becoming a guiding principle in navigating life's obstacles. McRae's unwavering belief in the power of choosing strength not only fuels her own remarkable journey but also serves as a beacon of empowerment for others, reminding us that resilience is a conscious choice within our grasp, regardless of the terrain we traverse.

#2 Your body can withstand a lot, seriously.

Sally's testament to the endurance of the human body extends beyond the realm of possibility. In her grueling ultramarathons, she showcases an astonishing ability to persevere through immense physical discomfort.

Enduring pain becomes an integral part of her narrative, where pushing through isn't merely a choice but a necessity. Her races, often spanning several hundred miles, epitomise the sheer resilience and fortitude required to withstand the punishing demands of such distances. Through these experiences, McRae underscores a profound truth: our bodies possess an incredible capacity to endure far more than we imagine.

If you watch her docos on YouTube (their free) you'll see just how Sally can push her body. It's inspiring. By testing her limits on the trails, she delves deep into the realms of physical and mental resilience, inviting others to explore their own boundaries and discover the remarkable capabilities hidden within. Her journey becomes an invitation to embrace discomfort as a means of understanding, respecting, and ultimately transcending our perceived limitations.

#3 Sometimes it's an advantage to have a different background and journey to everyone else.

Sally's journey into ultrarunning is a blend of various experiences that contributed to her remarkable resilience and triumphs on the trails. From her soccer background to extensive strength training, her history shaped by significant challenges, and her emergence into ultrarunning later than some, each aspect weaves into a narrative of diverse strengths and unique perspectives. These elements have fortified Sally's spirit, illustrating how diverse paths often lead to exceptional success.

Personally, I love the idea that someone that doesn't have a particularly privileged upbringing can flourish through a strong mentality. It wasn't easy for Sally, like many, but she was able to chip away at her goals and become an inspiration for millions.

Unique perspectives, taking the roads-less-travelled, different experiences and views and can be advantageous in the long-run.

#4 Who gives a s*** what people think on Strava!

Maintaining a steadfast focus on personal goals and disregarding external opinions becomes a cornerstone of Sally's philosophy—one epitomised by her stance on Strava.

Sally understands that comparison often corrodes the joy of personal achievements. In her view, others' perceptions on a running app don't encapsulate the depth of an individual's journey—their aspirations, their dedicated training, their unique path. She recognises that a slow run for one person might be a triumph for another.

Sally recently spoke about how people would often comment on some of her runs saying that they were slow or proclaim that 'they were faster than Sally McRae', which she notes that they didn't know it was one her recovery runs. People don't know what your training program is, so don't worry what anyone thinks.

This outlook frees runners from the shackles of external validation, allowing them to embrace their journey without the burden of comparison. Sally's wisdom on Strava echoes a larger truth: the true measure of success lies within, not in the reflections of others.

#5 There is no limit to what you can achieve.

The notion that there's no defined boundary to human potential might sound cliché, but Sally embodies this belief through her actions and accomplishments.

She advocates for pushing personal limits because, in her view, our true capabilities often elude us. Testing oneself becomes a crucial aspect of growth, but Sally also emphasises the importance of strategic and prudent approaches—playing the long-game. Her wisdom lies in the recognition that greatness isn't achieved overnight; rather, it's the product of consistent effort, intelligent planning, and a willingness to venture beyond perceived limitations.

If you watch some of Sally's pre-race preparation videos, you can see why she is successful. The amount of effort and strategic planning that goes into a single race is incredible.

Sally's mantra echoes the fundamental truth that each individual harbours untapped reservoirs of potential, capable of achieving remarkable feats if nurtured and explored. It's a reminder that greatness isn't exclusive—it resides within each of us, waiting to be realised through dedication and perseverance.


Sally McRae's journey in ultrarunning embodies resilience, wisdom, and a refusal to accept limits. Her lessons—choosing strength, pushing boundaries wisely, and ignoring comparisons—resonate universally. By focusing on personal goals, embracing uniqueness, and believing in limitless potential, Sally's story inspires us all to pursue our paths with unwavering determination, unlocking our own greatness step by step.

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