Sarah Crouch was the top American finisher at the 2018 Chicago Marathon and aims to score an even bigger PR at the California International Marathon on December 2.

Continuously Striving For Greatness

American women’s distance running is on fire right now—and the competition has continued to grow. If you tuned into the Chicago Marathon this year, you likely saw the typical display of strong female competitors but may have missed the woman who went on to become the race’s top American finisher. Sarah Crouch is no stranger to the U.S. distance-running scene, and she’s definitely one to keep an eye on. With a long list of accolades that includes multiple top-10 finishes in Chicago and top-10 finishes in the Houston Marathon, Tallahassee Marathon, Bolder Boulder 10K and more, Crouch has quietly been chipping away at her goals since 2011. When asked about success and goal setting, Crouch explains that being a runner doesn’t define her success—instead, it’s one part of who she is. A wife, daughter, sister, friend, creative artist, literature lover and writer, Crouch uses her multi-faceted identity to fuel her running and inspire her advocacy for the sport and other female distance runners.

“I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that I was created to do this, that I have a God-given talent for running long distance,” Crouch told Women’s Running. “I was asked recently what sacrifices I’ve made for the sport, and I had a hard time coming up with anything because this sport has never felt like a job to me. It feels like a privilege, something I am more than happy to give priority in my life.”

Crouch describes herself as “heavily right-brained with an insatiable hunger for literature and an incurable sweet tooth.” She also notes that being a marathoner with a love for putting one foot in front of the other helps her be confident, friendly and upfront with her goals—all while still practicing humility. She returned to Chicago this year to race her fifth Chicago Marathon with the goal of running to achieve a new PR. When she found herself running mid-race with women she was usually behind, she told herself she belonged there. As someone who knows Crouch, I know that she is a competitor and will always run with her heart. You can feel the focus, determination and drive beaming out of her.

From a strong race earlier this year at the USA Track and Field 25K Championships (in which she placed third with a time of 1:27:03) to her decision to pull out of the USATF 20K Championships after experiencing a debilitating pain in her quad, Crouch has had quite the year. Just two and one-half weeks before Chicago, Crouch had a benign tumor surgically removed. At the time of the surgery, she didn’t know if she would ever be able to run again. Her blog recapped the event: “Running doesn’t owe me anything. I have loved this sport more deeply than I’ve ever loved anything in my whole life, but it has never promised to be fair to me, or to anyone…” Powerful words and belief carried her to the Chicago Marathon start line, where she raced to a new PR.

“Chicago is a special city and the crowds respond really well to the top American runners. I let the cheering and noise carry me through the city. I felt fantastic up until mile 22, and then it was a real grind to the finish,” Crouch said. But Chicago isn’t where her season ends. Shortly after the marathon, Crouch announced she’d be racing the 2018 USATF Marathon Championships at the California International Marathon on December 2. “There is no part of me that feels mentally or physically burned out. Running Chicago and CIM has been the goal since July, so my coach Steve Magness specifically planned for a shorter, less intense buildup to Chicago so that I’d be able to bounce back well for CIM,” Crouch said. “So far, the training for CIM has been amazing, and I’m seeing times in workouts that are way faster even than my training for Chicago. I’m hopeful for a big PR in December.”

Crouch has a long list of accomplishments, but she humbly recounts her marathon career in a unique way: “I’ve been knocking on the door of a sub-2:30 marathon for a long time now, but I don’t want to define myself by what I have yet to do. I think it is a tendency of good runners to let the hunger for improvement outweigh the celebration of the victories that come along the way. I don’t want to look back at my career and realize I was unsatisfied with some really wonderful performances. When I ran my first good marathon at 25, I believed that sub-2:30 was a given, but now at 29, after four years of chasing it, I’ve begun to realize that it is not owed to me. Nothing in this sport is a given. I intend to keep chasing it, but to [also] celebrate other milestones along the way.”