Sarah Bard runs. Quite a bit. She’s the answer to the question, what happens when you get tired of training for marathons?

You either scale back, return to running shorter races or quit running altogether. Or, if you’re Sarah Bard, you turn it up a couple notches. You compete in races that are described in driving distances.

Bard, a Waterville Senior High School graduate, is now one of the top ultramarathon runners in the country. In November, Bard won her second consecutive JFK 50 Ultramarathon in Maryland. In September, Bard ran for Team USA at the 100 kilometer world championship in the Netherlands, where she placed fourth and ran the 62-mile course in seven hours, 29 minutes. Bard’s time was the fifth-fastest ever for an American woman at that distance and she helped Team USA win the gold medal.

In March, Bard won the Casumett Park 50K national championship in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y. Bard has five ultramarathons on her running resume now and she’s won three of them. It’s simplistic to call Bard a natural at her new sport. That thinking ignores the years of training that led to this.

“Having several years of training for marathons and running marathons gave me a good base,” Bard, who recently moved to Seattle with her husband, said.

Bard graduated from Wellesley College in 2006, where she was the captain of the cross country team. For a while, she devoted her training to marathons and ran two a year. Running ultramarathons started, Bard said, on a whim.

“I didn’t really feel like training for a marathon,” Bard said.

Bard heard about the JFK 50 miler — which includes the Appalachian Trail as a section of the course — and entered last year. She won with a time of 6:37.04, essentially learning on the job.

“At the time, I really had no perspective on what was a good time,” Bard said. “It was a pretty painful race. Recovery was longer than I was used to… I wanted to get one under my belt. You don’t always get the chance in training to make the mistakes you might make in a race.”

Bard won with a 30 minute cushion. Around the halfway point the race progresses alongside a canal. That’s where Bard took the lead, although she never felt comfortable, expecting her nearest competition to overtake her at any moment.

“The whole time I was panicked she was going to catch me,” Bard said.

Last month, Bard won the JFK again, this time in 6:31.11 and more than 45 minutes ahead of her nearest competition.

The first JFK 50 miler, painful though it was, hooked Bard on ultramarathons. What she didn’t know at the time was it also qualified her for Team USA. Bard’s training schedule for ultramarathons was similar to her schedule for marathons, with minor differences.

“I reshuffled how I structure my weeks a little bit. I do long runs back-to-back, like one Saturday and one Sunday,” Bard said.

Bard went to the Netherlands with no expectations and returned as a member of the world champion team. Running the equivalent of a Watervile to Bangor jaunt — an analogy Bard hates — suits her. Bard has no interest in branching out into triathlons, as some megadistance runners do.

“The thing I like about running is it’s fairly simple,” Bard said. “I think at some point I’ll try 100 miles.”

One hundred miles. That’s what happens when you get tired of training for ultramarathons.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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