Sarah bar­nett

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FEATURE -

is noth­ing about Sarah Bar­nett to sug­gest she may be one of the more as­ton­ish­ing ath­letes in SA. Her run­ning shorts and shoes with the toes cut out to pre­vent blis­ters carry some clue. But Bar­nett is not phys­i­cally im­pos­ing, and her gen­tle na­ture cer­tainly car­ries none of the swag­ger and ego of a world-ranked sportsper­son.

Yet in April, 36-year-old Bar­nett was in Flush­ing Meadow, New Jer­sey, where over 10 days she ran 697 laps of a 1.609km cir­cuit. That’s 1121.7km. It was the best per­for­mance by a fe­male run­ner in the race.

At the start of our chat the softly-spo­ken Bar­nett hands me a list of all her runs dat­ing back to 2005. It’s tir­ing just read­ing them. A six-day race here, a 10-day race there; 714km in Swe­den, 1000km in Greece, 675km in Den­mark and 913km in Monaco. And then, of course, there was the 50-day 4000km run from the top of Nor­way to Turkey – just for fun.

Bar­nett started run­ning af­ter a rec­om­men­da­tion from her med­i­ta­tion teacher. She had no ath­letic back­ground, even de­scrib­ing her­self as lazy, but found once she started she couldn’t stop. The run­ning be­came an ex­ten­sion of her med­i­ta­tion. It was a way to free the mind and be­come closer to God. “You are run­ning at 2 or 3 three in the morn­ing and it’s very silent,” she says. “You are ba­si­cally pray­ing. Ei­ther con­sciously or un­con­sciously you are talk­ing to some­body. It’s very, very beau­ti­ful.”

Bar­nett says it’s a spir­i­tual rather than re­li­gious feel­ing that takes her through the dark, cold nights and drags her out of a tent af­ter two hours sleep and lets her run again. There is also a sim­plic­ity to her life she finds ap­peal­ing. She lives in a small flat, rarely watches tele­vi­sion and has no com­puter. She has sold her car which means she runs be­tween her jobs as a cleaner. She wakes up each day and med­i­tates be­fore go­ing for a run. At night she goes for an­other jog with one of Ade­laide’s run­ning clubs. “I think there is an el­e­ment of the her­mit in me,” she says with a laugh.

She can see her­self con­tin­u­ing to com­pete well into her 40s but is also aware she needs to set­tle down at some stage and re­turn to her pro­fes­sion as an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist. In the mean­time there is an­other eight day race in France to look for­ward to and the feel­ing that only run­ning can bring.

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