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Life and Work with Sara Spolrich

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Spolrich.

Sara, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It all started with a long hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2015. A friend was beginning her thru-hike and I joined her in support for a month. In that month she gave me the trail name Coach and I’ve been living into that in some aspect of my life since. After that month, I visited her on the trail a few more times and felt compelled to continue the journey on my own in my own way- that way being to try to finish the entire 2189 mile trail is a calendar year from when I started. I was living in Chicago at the time working at a school so taking off time to hike wasn’t the issue as I had many school breaks already on my calendar. The biggest logistical piece was getting to and from various points on the trail, covering large chunks of ground, and getting back to school on time. With that information, I planned three day weekends, week-long winter hikes, and a two months in the summer with my average hiking distance each day needing to be 32 miles a day. For a while, I was on track. Then I started to feel like I was missing the point of that particular trail: the community. Hiking solo 30+ mile days doesn’t offer much time to talk to folks. So I slowed down and reevaluated. I met some wonderful people, I shared the trail with friends new to backpacking, and I enjoyed the towns along the way.

In all of that hiking, I became an ultra-distance runner. I figured if I could hike 45 miles in a day with a pack on, surely running 50 would be a breeze. It wasn’t, but I fell in love with it. Its the next best thing to thru hiking one can have while keeping a day job, putting down roots, and investing in my community. When I moved to Golden in 2017, I wanted to find people I could connect with. I reached out to Women’s Wilderness, a non-profit in Boulder and became a field instructor were in the summer I take school-aged girls on backpacking and climbing trips. I also instruct an after school climbing program through Women’s Wilderness for middle school girls in the spring and fall. Because, why not too, I coach a women’s trail running group with Life’s 2 Short Fitness ranging from beginner runners to seasoned road runners ready to explore something new. It means a lot to me to be able to share a bit of what I love with women and girls and I hope to break down the hesitance of really going for something big.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A smooth road? Certainly not smooth. A straight path? Not that either. It’s been windy, full of potholes, forks, and sometimes lonely and narrow. Now, though, its straightened and smoothed. The biggest challenge was to continue listening to myself and what I felt in my bones I needed to be doing. So often, we tend to dampen our unique voice to fit a mold. It’s easier, certainly, but we miss the sweetness of a full life when we only do what is expected of us. It would have been so much easier to stay on one place, work, and create stability. I wouldn’t have ever stressed over where I was going to sleep, how much money I had left, or even if my body could continue pushing day after day. I wouldn’t know my limits if I stayed comfortable. I still don’t know my limits. I’m still pushing that edge to grow.

Any advice for other women, particularly young women who are just starting their journey?
My advice for women and non-binary people is to listen to your gut. What is that one thought or question that never leaves? Pursue it. You don’t have to sell all of your things, quit your job, and wander around in the woods to figure it out (although, I might recommend it) Just start with one step in the direction of joy. Then keep listening. Keep following what’s bringing you joy and even a little discomfort. Say yes to opportunities that scare you a little, but you want to try anyway. The more you attend to your inner voice, the louder it becomes, and the easier it is to follow. Your dreams matter.

Please tell us about your business.
I am an all-around educator of people. During the day, I work at Cornerstone Montessori School in Golden in the toddler program. I am constantly learning alongside these small humans and gain so much insight as to how I want to show up in the world: full of love, feeling my emotions, and always exploring. Women’s Wilderness in Boulder is another organization I’m proud to work with as a field instructor and after school climbing instructor for their girls’ programs. Women’s Wilderness is a nonprofit that “cultivate courage, confidence, connection, and environmental stewardship among girls, women and the LGBTQ2+ community through year-round outdoor immersions across the West.” Life’s 2 Short Fitness is yet another women-focused organization I’m proud to be a part of as a women’s trail running coach. L2S wants to “inspire, encourage and educate women so they can go out and explore their world in a new way.”

Teaching folks how to backpack, hike, run, climb is really only part of the work. The real work is to offer a safe space for women, girls, and non-binary people to learn about themselves, take risks, and then hopefully continue encouraging others to join them.

Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
Find organizations that align with who you are/want to be. Reach out to them, volunteer, or attend events. Think of networking less like an opportunity to get something from someone, but more of an opportunity to show up totally as yourself and see who you connect with.

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Sara Spolrich

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