Trinity Western’s Sarah Inglis has made a name for herself both in Canada and abroad.
Hailing from Falkirk, a town nestled in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, it was the sport of running that captured Sarah Inglis’s heart.
“I started (running) when I was like 10 years old,” Inglis says.
“I tried highland dancing before trying running and I was rubbish. After my first competition I was like, ‘Oh I’m terrible at this.’”
With the option of dancing taken off the table, Inglis’s mother suggested Sarah try running as an alternative. So she, along with her brother and sister, who are triplets, started training together once a week.
“I just did a few local school races and I ended up coming first and second in them,” Inglis says. “So I was like ‘Oh, I’m kind of good at this and this is fun.’ Then I just continued from there.”
When high school came around, Inglis started taking her running more seriously, making national teams for both track and field and cross country.
However, it was in university when Inglis really started to shine, achieving personal bests on the track and the trails while, at the same time, working towards at teaching degree at the University of Edinburgh.
At the age of 18, she made Great Britain’s national junior team for the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland, which gave her the opportunity to compete with some of the world’s best runners. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Olympic double gold medallist Mo Farah, Inglis was introduced to a whole new level of sport. Although she placed 56th, her experience only made her want success even more.
“My ultimate dream would be to go pro and run for a living.” Inglis says.
But after Inglis graduated with her degree and began working full-time as a physical education teacher, her athletic progression waned. The balance of teaching and running wasn’t working.
“I was on the verge of quitting,” Inglis says. “Just before coming out here (to TWU) I wasn’t competing in races and I lost a lot of training. I was starting to think that I might just run socially and for fun. And that’s when Laurier was like ‘You should come out to Langley.’”
Through existing relationships with both head coach Laurier Primeau and fellow TWU athlete Calum Innes, Inglis made the courageous decision to travel to Canada and give her career as a runner one last shot.
Inglis had known Calum since she was 15 years old, having attended a number of training camps alongside the Spartans hurdler, and also knew Primeau through many of those same camps.
While she was still finishing her schooling, Primeau had offered Inglis an opportunity to come to Langley. But Inglis wanted to finish what she started and complete her teaching certificate.
“I told him to give me a year, and that if I was still interested I would get in touch,” Inglis says.
A year later, she contacted Primeau.
“I was like ‘You know what, I’m either going to get a full time job here and continue as I am, or I can take a chance and come out,’” Inglis says. “So that’s what I did. I came over for a visit with my mom for five days and I liked the campus and I liked the people. And I spoke to (TWU endurance coach) Mark (Bomba) and asked what would happen if I was just to go in 100% and see what happens.”
What happened next was a year to both remember and forget.
Arriving in the fall of 2013, Inglis and her coaches alike had high expectations for the coming seasons, both in cross country and track and field. However, expectations don’t always match results.
Entering the 2013 CIS cross country championships, Inglis had a shot to win. She was coming off a fall season in which she had finished first in two out of the three races that she had competed in. The national championships in London, Ont. were set to be the culmination of her cross country campaign.
The result was anything but a culmination. She finished 29th.
“I really believed that I had a chance to medal or win the whole thing going into it,” Inglis says. “But then I blew out with maybe a mile to go and people just came shooting past me. And of course I had put so much more work into training. I wanted to do so well for our team and I think that was the biggest disappointment. Our team would have medaled, even if I had made it into the top 10. So it was really hard after that. I questioned why I even run and why I do this. It was such a disappointment and I totally doubted myself. But I gave it a couple days and I was probably more determined than ever.”
As her season moved from the outdoor paths to the indoor track, Inglis once again set her sights on gold at the national championships.
She entered the championship meet as one of the favourites to win the 3000m. Instead, her result harkened back memories of her cross country result. She finished 11th and more than 30 seconds off of her personal best.
“Last year’s cross country and CIS indoors 3000m were tough on both of us,” Bomba says. “I know she was extremely disappointed with her results. But the beauty of this sport is that one often has the chance to run another race.”
Less than 24 hours after her 3000m effort, Inglis was back on the track for the 1500m race and in 4:22.15, silenced the naysayers and captured CIS gold.
“She came back the next day and ran amazingly well to win the 1500m and defeated some very talented athletes,” Bomba says.
Now in her second year in the Masters of Leadership program at TWU, Inglis has come back stronger than ever, adjusting her training and mindset and continuing to push towards her cross country goal: winning it all.
“What sets Sarah apart is her determination to succeed and improve,” Bomba says. “She has a drive to be better that I have not seen from many athletes in my years in the sport. She has the ability to absolutely drive herself into the ground in training and racing. For some athletes it’s trying to get them to run a little harder. For Sarah it’s trying to get her to run more controlled and be more patient in her approach to training.
“People might not fully understand how someone can want something too much, but in Sarah’s case it means that she is willing to override any sense of pain she is facing while running to the point where she ‘blows up.’ The best races are a combination of some recklessness with a more cerebral approach, or as I like to say ‘patience with a sense of urgency.’ Everything is a process in our training and she is learning to combine these two contradictory ideas into her own approach to racing and training.”
A new season and refreshed approach seem to be working well for Inglis. This fall, she finished first in both the Western Washington Classic and BC Cross Country Championships and second in the University of Washington’s Sundodger Invitational.
So, yet again, she has high hopes and great expectations as the TWU cross country team heads to St. John’s, N.L. to compete in this year’s CIS Cross Country Championships.
“The race [at Western Washington] is the best I’ve probably felt physically,” Inglis says. “I was 40 seconds faster than last year. I felt really good. So now I just need to maintain it. People have said that I’m done and that I blew up last year. But I want to prove everyone wrong.”
On Nov. 8, she’ll get a chance to do just that.