Exclusive Interview! Professional endurance runner: Sam Thompson

Sam Thompson is one of the most inspiring professional endurance runners in the world.  You can imagine the excitement when Sam agreed to be interviewed by CheapTents.com on his achievements, challenges and motivations.  For an insight into the life of a phenomenal ultramarathon runner, this is truly a great place to start…

Sam Thompson, Pro Endurance Runner
Sam Thompson, Professional Endurance Runner

Sam Thompson’s Background

Born 24th October 1980, Sam is a native adventure runner raised in Mississippi, USA, but currently living in Seattle.

Prior to 2006 Sam was well known on the endurance running / ultra-marathon circuit, including such challenges as the 2,000 mile+ Appalachian Trail.  From 1st July 2006 though, Sam’s prominence in the  world of ultra-long distance running caught the media’s eye on an international scale, as he started to run 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states of America, to altruistically raise money for hurricane Katrina Relief in the ‘Run for Hope’ campaign.

Swollen bleeding feet, agony-stricken legs and pure exhaustion is not enough to stop this runner from completing his goals.

What is ultramarathon running, endurance running and ultra distance running?

Ultramarathon running is also known as endurance running and ultra distance running.  It literally means longer than the typical marathon of 26.21875 miles, and stretches to be as much as 100 miles races, or multi-day races of 1000 miles or more! Endurance running raises the scary question of how much running can a person endure?!

Race courses are both on-road and off-road, including the Highland Ultramarthon of 200 miles, Britains Coast-to-Coast marathon of 170 miles, Sandbaggers Gobi Challenge of 140 miles of mountains, ice gorges and desolate sand, or even the infamous Appalachian Trail of 2174 miles across mountainous Eastern USA!

Sam Thompson Interview

Here’s a fantastic insight into the life and motivations of endurance runner, Sam Thompson…

CheapTents.com: What inspired you to get into Adventure Running / Trail Running?
Sam: I have always had an inner drive to desire to go further and push my body farther, and it continues to drive me today. I started running cross country and track in high school and although I loved them, the distances just weren’t enough, so I started doing triathlons on the side. Then I moved up to road marathoning and eventually into the realm of 50k trail races and beyond. Now 100 mile races are definitely my favorite distance.

CheapTents.com: What has been your biggest sporting achievement?
Sam: Being the first person ever to run 51 marathons in all 50 states (plus D.C.) in 50 consecutive days is probably my biggest achievement to date, but not so much just because of the pure sport of it. I consider this my biggest sporting achievement because of the awesome positive effects I was able to generate through this run to aid the Gulf Coast hurricane victims.

CheapTents.com: What is your biggest weakness?
Sam: Coffee. No doubt about it- I can’t get enough of it. And living in Seattle certainly doesn’t help this addiction.

CheapTents.com: When did you feel like you ‘made it’ in your field of outdoor sports? Do you feel like you’ve made it yet?
Sam: Haha, I guess I’m not quite sure yet what “making it” in ultrarunning feels like, so I’ll definitely keep you posted on that. Actually, I feel like that’s part of the beauty of the sport, and I hope I never “make it.” I feel like ultrarunning isn’t as much about a specific destination as it is the adventure in the middle.

CheapTents.com:  What do you find most challenging about training?
Sam: Lately I’d have to say just motivation to get out the door is the biggest challenge. I’ve never had much trouble with motivation, but now that I’m living in Seattle, the weather is a tough beast to contend with. Once I’m out the door, all is well, but it’s that step of lacing up the shoes and getting out the door that gets pretty tough on nasty Seattle days.

CheapTents.com: What has been your worst injury (if any), from outdoors sports and how did it happen?
Sam: I’ve had a handful of weird injuries from running, but probably my worst was a bundle of stress fractures throughout my lower legs and feet. I managed to procure these after running 4 road marathons in 4 consecutive days some years ago. The issue was that I ran them in light racing flats with no cushion (ooops). This had me out of commission for running for around 4 months, which has been my longest break from running since I started.

CheapTents.com: What will be your most challenging competitions for next year?
Sam: I’m crossing my fingers that I might get into Western States 100 this year, and if I do, that’ll definitely be the most challenging/competitive event for me next year. Another extremely competitive event I’ll be excited to run again this year is the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship race in San Francisco. The course is one of the most beautiful out there, and the competition is incredible.

CheapTents.com: Where would you like to be in 5 years time? Main Ambitions?
Sam: I’d like to still be running injury free, loving what I do, and inspiring others to do the same by pushing my body to the limits. I’d also definitely love to be a dad in 5 years time!

CheapTents.com: For other budding outdoor sports enthusiasts, what tips can you provide to help others compete at a higher level?
Sam: There are many routes to success, and just remember that success is ultimately defined by individuals and not by society. Just keep doing what you love, and stay focused on your ambitions.

One foot in front of the other…was my enduring mantra as I trekked through the CO mountains on some of the most gorgeous and challenging singletrack trail you can imagine.

[from seesamrun.com, after running 415 miles in just 7 days]

CheapTents.com: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Sam: I love The North Face Hydrogen jacket, because it is the perfect lightweight jacket for this crazy Seattle weather. It’s super light, and can squish down to fit in my pocket when I’m not wearing it, and then when the rain starts, it’s the perfect little shell.

CheapTents.com: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?
Sam: I have to first thank my ever-faithful wife Kirsten. Without her incredible support, I’d never be able to do the kinds of adventures I do. Not only is her love and support invaluable, but because she is a dietitian, her help with my diet and nutrition is incredible too!

A huge thanks also to The North Face for their incredible support! I couldn’t ask for a better, more supportive and encouraging sponsor, and it’s an honor to run for them. To be able to have a helping hand in designing the most innovative and effective gear with them is an awesome opportunity.

CheapTents.com: Anything else you would like to say?
Sam: Thanks!

CheapTents.com: A monstrous thank you for providing this fantastic insight into your life as a pro long-distance runner, and we wish you the very very best with everything you wish to achieve in 2008, 2009 and beyond!

I’m inspired!  What gear do I need?

No body starts running ultramarathon endurance races over night.  Years of training goes into it, so be patient!  Gear is pretty basic as it goes, but what you do buy should be ultra-lightweight and ultra comfortable:

  • Start thinking about whether you prefer running with a hydration pack, water bottle or waist pack.
  • For footwear, there are specialist brands and models available, typically ‘traditional’ (I use this word lightly) trail running shoes by Salomon, The North Face and Inov8.
  • Socks need to be comfortable cushioned running socks.
  • Ultra -lightweight jackets are very popular and necessary for running in this country’s weather!  Breathable, waterproof and windproof?
  • Comfortable, breathable t-shirt (long or short-sleeve).
  • Nutrition, fuel, water, support, and a finish line a long, long way away.

For more information on endurance and trail running and appropriate gear, feel free to contact the CheapTents.com blogging team, or call (UK) 01925 411 385, and we’d be more than happy to help!


9 thoughts on “Exclusive Interview! Professional endurance runner: Sam Thompson

  1. Better than anything is how Sam keeps his charity and support work at the same profile as himself. This is how fame should be used, surely!

    Looks like you’re seriously into your outdoor stuff too – great stuff, keep it up!

    Thanks Will.


  2. Greetings,
    Sam is quite an inspiration. My husband and I were at the finish line in Bay St. Louis when he completed his 50in50in50. Please note, Sam grew up in Vicksburg, MISSISSIPPI, not Missouri as mentioned in your blog/interview. Please correct and give us credit for our hometown boy.


    1. Being there at the finish line would be awesome – what an honour!! I’m very jealous!

      Ahh Mississsippi – that’s been corrected, thanks Anita! He currently lives in Missouri as I understand it, but I’ve made the amendment all the same.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading!



  3. Hi Terry,

    Thanks for sharing. I think you’re right about Dean Karnazes being the first person to run 50 marathons, but Sam ran an extra marathon making it 51 marathons – one more for good luck!

    Awesome achievements by both of them!! 🙂


  4. If you’re thinking of taking on a running challenge why not let us know? It doesn’t have to be running 51 marathons in 50 consecutive days like Sam!

    For example, we were recently contacted by Carl Loftus who is going to run the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire. It’s 34 mile long off-road trail and he’s doing it to raise money for Warrington Triathlon Club.

    Whatever length of run you’re thing of doing, let us know and we can help promote it on the CheapTents.com blog! E-mail: ben[at]cheaptents.com


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