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Sara’s Story: From Running 5k’s to Ultra Marathons

Sara’s Story: From Running 5k’s to Ultra Marathons

Runners! You don’t miss this inspiring story by ultra-marathon runner, Sara Fillman!

Sara shared her story with us and we are thrilled to share it with YOU! Sara has been working with Generation Care Physical Therapist, Scott McKeel, PT, DPT, CSCS for the last year and a half. You will not believe the incredible transformation she has experienced in a short time. Sara went from being a casual 5k runner in the middle of the pack – to running the Bigfoot 200 in 20 months! Read about Sara’s amazing journey and be inspired!

Sara’s Story: In Her Own Words

September 2016: After 13 years of running 5k’s in the middle off the pack, I had this crazy thought that maybe I wanted to be a little more competitive in my running. I had no interest in a marathon (who wants to run for 4 hours, right?). So I started trying to run faster and farther with the intent of getting a little faster and stronger. Instead, I discovered lots of aches, pains and time off from running because I had no idea what I was doing. My sister suggested I go see this physical therapist named Scotty. She was a long time marathoner and raved about what he could do so I made an appointment.

That first day I learned a lot of new words….cadence, form, hips, glutes…..What? I just want to run a little faster, maybe farther (like a 10K). After a few more visits and some tweaking of my form and cadence, my hip pain went away, my knees didn’t hurt and I felt like the wind was at my back and fire under my feet!! I quickly graduated to my first training run in the double digits, 10 miles! I couldn’t believe it. Maybe I could do a half marathon!

I signed up for a trail half for April, just 4 short months away. I followed race plans, learned about nutrition and checked in with Scotty when I had an ache or pain that concerned me. He would again set me on a path to getting stronger. As my race approached, I had far surpassed the half marathon training miles. I contacted the race director and upgraded to the Marathon! Me. A weak, slow 40-something was going to do a marathon. On trails.

April came and went and I kicked the Marathon in the tail! I signed up for a 50K for July. I was feeling so strong!! And the distance was like a drug! I was cranking out half marathons like I’d been running them for years and the ultra-distances were intriguing me. How far CAN I go? A 50 miler? Maybe a 100 miler?

Fast forward to January 2018: The race plan was set. I was going to do a 50M, a 100M and a 200-mile mountain race in 2018. I came to Scotty with my plan. While I’m sure he thought I was crazy, he set me on a course of strength and structural health that made me so strong.

April 2018: the 50-miler went off without a hitch. This was do-able! So I trained and ran, and trained and ran, and trained and ran. I prepared the best I knew how for the 100-miler but for the first time, failed. I DNF’d (did not finish) at mile 58. Partially because I didn’t have the ultra-running experience (mentally) but also because I had underestimated the 13,000 feet of ascents and descents that made this race extra tough. With 8 weeks until the Bigfoot 200, I had to get to work! I, again, went to Scotty and told him what had happened at the 100-miler. He directed me on what I needed to do to build the strength for 200 miles through the mountains. With cutoff times. I had no time for injury.

The next 8 weeks were a brutal regimen of hill repeats, squats, lunges, wall sits. I thought it must be torture! But it paid off!

August 10, 2018: I started the epic journey through the Cascade Mountains in search of the elusive prize, the Bigfoot 200 belt buckle. With 40,000 feet of ascent, I was unsure of myself. Would I fail? Was I strong enough? It took me 102 hours to complete that race. 3 hours under the cutoff. It took grit, tears, a few blisters, but most of all strength.

I can’t thank Scotty enough for supporting me through my ultra-journey. I feel like I have been given an opportunity that has changed my life. I haven’t decided on next year’s race calendar and what that will look like. I can say, however, that with the help of Scotty, I went from racing 5k’s (middle of the pack) to an Ultra Marathoner racing the race of all races in under 20 months. I can’t thank Scotty enough!

– Sara Fillman


Before Bigfoot 200

After Bigfoot 200











Bigfoot Pompei Peak