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Sally Meyerhoff, 1983 - 2011
Sally Meyerhoff did one XTERRA trail run in her life.
It was a heck of a run. And a heck of a life.
Just three months after winning the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii, Meyerhoff’s life ended tragically on March 8. She was killed in a cycling accident in her hometown of Maricopa, Ariz. According to media reports, Meyerhoff collided with a pick-up truck in an intersection and died at the scene. She was 27.
Meyerhoff (pictured) ran her way into XTERRA lore on Dec. 5, 2010. In her first attempt at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, she not only won it, she set a women’s course record. She completed the grueling 12.9-mile course at Kualoa Ranch in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 58 seconds.
In a moment from the race that has already been immortalized on video, Meyerhoff tripped and fell off a ledge late in the course at Kualoa Ranch. She dropped several feet down into a patch of bushes. In typical Meyerhoff fashion, she climbed back up to the trail and continued to run, never looking back.
Meyerhoff made it known – through her running blog and in media interviews -- that the XTERRA victory rejuvenated her career. “I don’t do a ton of trail running, but I do marathons and half-marathons and I train really hard at the professional level,” she said after her win. “This race tested me like I’ve never been tested before.”
A month after Kualoa Ranch, she won the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon – a race she said she always wanted to win.
With that, she set her sights on two loftier goals. One was the 2012 Olympics. The other was the 2011 Ironman World Championships triathlon. Her plan was to compete in her first Ironman in October, then focus on making the U.S. Olympic marathon team.
Prior to her XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, Meyerhoff was already a recognized figure in the running world. She was an All-American runner at Duke University before beginning her professional running career. In 2009, she set an American record for a 10-mile road run at 54 minutes, 38 seconds.
Her tragic death sent shockwaves of sadness through the XTERRA Tribe. What some of them said…
Max King (2010 XTERRA Trail Run men’s world champion): “I didn't know Sally prior to XTERRA, but got to know her a little on Oahu and I can genuinely say that even in that short amount of time she was one of my favorite people to hang out with. I was looking forward to getting to know her more, as she had as unconventional a training plan for the Olympic Trials next year as I do. She was one to go her own way and not follow the conventional wisdom that is out there on the proper way to train. Something that takes a lot of guts to do, but it was paying off for her in performances. I wish she had been able to test herself and see what she was truly capable of at the Ironman distance in October and then at the Olympic Trials in January, I think she could have surprised a lot of people including herself.”
Will Christian (second-place male at 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship): “Even though Sally and I went to rival schools and graduated at the same time, I didn't actually meet her until XTERRA Worlds. We happened to sit at the same table for the post-race party with Max King, Brandon Mader, Albert Su, Kim Kuehnert, and Ina Marie Hjorth. We shared nachos and each had a beer and talked about our past racing stories. That's when I found out that she went to Duke and was an All-American (while I was at Virginia). Our lives crossed paths and we didn't even know it.”
“From what I could tell, she was a very modest and confident runner. She laughed when she saw herself fall on the highlight video and was proud of the moment. She was proud that she got back up and finished the race and still won in great fashion. The whole crowd applauded her. She had a bright future in running and triathlons and it is very sad to hear that she will not have a chance to fulfill her goals.”
“So she is an inspiration. She also has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings when I'm running. You don't think of the dangers that are hidden right around the corner. When you run, you are in your own little world chasing your dreams without regards to the real world. Everyone should take a step back and reflect. She will be missed. My heart goes out to her family and friends.”
Rachel Cieslewicz (fifth-place female at 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship): “It is rare when you meet someone who is all-around amazing. I met Sally in December at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. She to me was the real deal. Someone I immediately looked up to and made me think about the kind of athlete and person I wanted to be. Not only was Sally the best all-around runner I had ever met, but she was kind and good. She glowed with life and dreams and dared to follow her heart. Her writings on her blog I loved as she could pull you merrily right into her dance of life. Sally truly lived. So amazing, so rare. Incredibly inspiring. My heart is broken to learn that Sally has passed away. Once again she has reinforced how precious life is. My heart goes out to her loved ones.”
Brandon Mader (fourth-place male at 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship): “Personally, I only knew her in passing, but she struck me as such a focused person and competitor. I wish I had known her better as I was really looking forward to seeing her at next year’s Championship. This all shocks me, and my thoughts go immediately to the many mutual friends we had at Duke and the loss they are feeling, as well as her family and the American running community.”
Pictures by Eric Wynn/XTERRA
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