SARAH INGLIS laughs at the irony of being incorrectly identified as American by the marathon project organizers in Arizona, where, just before Christmas, she will run her first official 26-mile race.
Her Scottish accent is still as heavy as ever, seven years after moving to western Canada from West Lothian.
The physical education instructor from Langley, British Columbia, an hour’s drive from Vancouver, says, “I don’t know how that mistake happened,”
I believe it would be difficult for me to ever change affiliations anyway, because as soon as people heard my speech, I would be exposed as a fake!
Half the children I teach can’t understand me, I’m sure, particularly when I wear my mask. My training group has now internalized my accent, but it takes them a while to understand what I’m doing when new people join us.
The 29-year-old has no aspirations to compete for another nation, luckily for Scottish and British athletics. Her marathon debut would help to test the waters ahead of the London race in March, which is also considered an Olympic qualifier.
Undoubtedly, the postponement of the Tokyo Games has given Inglis an unlikely chance, although she still leaves open the possibility of still running the 10,000m as a backup.
“This is the first time for me and also the first time my coach, Mark Bomba, has coached someone for a marathon, so we’re both experimenting a little bit,” she said.
“We don’t want it to be overcooked. Ideally, in Arizona, I would like to run an Olympic standard and check it off, then recover fast enough for London in March.
The Olympic delay certainly gave me the chance to run the marathon. And this race just came up in Arizona and it seemed like the perfect timing to try it out.
The 10,000m is still a choice because even qualifying for the marathon is such a fierce competition. And, if necessary, there may be enough time to recover and pursue the 10k track later.
Training at that distance for her first attempt has gone well, although some of her more interested students wonder why she’s not just driving to school rather than running.
The amount of training we do has grown steadily. I ran 25 miles last week, which gave me confidence that I could do that. I still felt good, so I would be happy if I felt that way in the race.
“I run most of the time on the way to and from school, so some days I run 10 to 14 miles on the way to school. Some of the kids see me and think I’m jogging or running late! One of them asked why I didn’t get a car – I don’t think they understood that I volunteer to work out and run.”
When attempting to stay safe before moving to the United States, working in a school often brings its own logistical issues.
“The race organizer emailed us asking us to limit our exposure to the virus, but I’m not sure how I can do that when I’m teaching 400 kids a week at the school! But I have my mask on and the gym doors open to try to be as safe as possible.”
Inglis may be some 7,000 kilometers away from home, but she remains on the radar of Scottish Athletics.
The Edinburgh-born runner says, “I’m part of the marathon project that Robert Hawkins set up, so I have a lot of contact with him,”
Then there’s Scottish Athletics’ Mark Pollard, emailing back and forth, and their social media squad, referencing me here and there, which is really nice.
As the Covid tests cost about $400 [Canadian] [£230] each and I need two of them, plus flights and accommodation, Scottish Athletics has also helped me cover some costs for Arizona. The financial assistance makes a huge difference to you.
More than a decade ago, among a group of talented athletes including Eilidh Doyle and Eilish McColgan, Inglis made the breakthrough. She hopes that she will achieve a similar profile to them if she makes the breakthrough in the next few years.
“I’m pretty well known in Scottish athletics circles as I’ve been running since I was 10 years old, but people new to the sport or the general public have no idea who I am,” she admits.
That would help if I were able to make it to the Olympics and then the Commonwealth Games the next year. I’m about to turn 30, so it’d be cool to be on those teams and maybe get a bit more acquainted with them.