“There’s nothing in the world that has ever made me feel more alive, and more like a small part of a big world that’s just so beautiful and amazing when I’m running for hours and hours and hours, sometimes I even cry, I just love being out there.”
Sharon Knorr’s childhood was spent in Marietta, Georgia. Quiet and reserved as a young child, she was given some discouraging advice from her doctor. She was advised not to participate in sports with a lot of running, due to her asthma. Her doctors may have put a ceiling on her athletic activities, but Sharon was not about to be limited. “I really wanted to be on the soccer team, so I just started by running to the end of my driveway. By the end of the year, I could run enough to start playing soccer, then basketball, then I just started running for fun.” That determination and inner fire to persevere, changed her life profoundly, setting the stage for her future pursuits.
Sharon blossomed in high school, gone was that shy kid from grade school. A pivotal moment for her happened on a family vacation to Yosemite. “I’m very different from my family, I like to be active and be outside.” After experiencing Yosemite’s raw beauty, Sharon beamed, “I wanted to see the world.” This new adventurous person began to emerge, and her exploring days were just beginning. Her dad allowed her to take many solo trips around the southern United States during her high school years. One of her fondest memories was a road trip to Texas, spent with her younger brother. As they were getting settled into day one of their camping trip, a huge storm rolled in, “All of our stuff flooded, our food was flooded, our tent flooded, we were probably hypothermic.” Undeterred, they toughed it out and stayed all three days. Needless to say, it took decades for her brother to agree to camp with her again.
Sharon’s adventures continued, on a three-week trip to Brazil before she attended the University of Georgia. She enjoyed the culture and the people and was preparing for medical school. However, after her first year, she realized that path may not be for her, “I had gone to college thinking I wanted to be a doctor, but once I got there and realized doctors have zero work-life balance, that’s not going to be for me, because I have way too many hobbies.” Sharon ended up switching her major to English. She went back to Brazil after her first year of college and ended up staying the entire summer, immersing herself in the local community. She didn’t speak Portuguese, so her guitar was a way to bridge the language barrier between her and the local people. She realized during that time, “If you have an idea for something, the only person stopping you from that, is you.” Sharon ended up earning her degree in Nursing at Northeastern University, that passion for helping others was still inside of her.
Over the years, Sharon enjoyed running as a hobby, running with her kids in strollers and even completing a marathon in 2010. But it was a summer day in Vermont in 2016, that truly opened her eyes to what she wanted. She was crewing for a friend at the VT100, and watching the day unfold, a thought entered her mind. “This is it, forget road running, forget road marathons, forget everything else, this is everything right here.” It was such a magical weekend for Sharon and her kids. As they slept in their car to warm up after crewing all night in the rain, they awoke a 6 a.m., Sharon’s six year-old daughter turned to her and asked, “So, you’re gonna do this next year, right?” “Yes” was the resounding answer.
Sharon was on a mission to find her qualifier, so she could toe the line of the VT100 in 2017. Some people tried to convince her to start with a 50k and work her way up to a 50 mile, but that wasn’t Sharon’s style. “No way, I’m going for the 50 miler, maybe even a 100k, I was so fired up.” After some searching, she had found her race, the Lookout Mountain 50 mile in Georgia that December. She had no idea what she was doing, but she had trained hard and was mentally and physically tough, “I was waiting the whole time for the part where I was going to be like, ‘this sucks’, but that never happened, I was excited the whole time.” Upon completing the Vermont 100 the following year, she signed up for her second 100 mile, just weeks later.
One of Sharon’s happiest running memories took place at the Grindstone 100, in Virgina. An out and back course with an impressive elevation profile. She had no crew, no pacer. She remembers being at the starting line convincing herself that she’ll go as far as she can. At the turnaround point, there was a moment “The sun was coming up, I’m looking out over all these mountains, the sun was bathing everything in this gold light, I’m doing it, all by myself.” Standing there alone in her thoughts, she smiled, “I gave myself permission to dream as big as I ever wanted to, I was so happy.”
Sharon is on her biggest quest yet, training for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. She will run four of the five most prestigious and oldest 100 mile races in the United States this year. Sharon will be running the Old Dominion in Virginia, Vermont 100, Leadville 100 in Colorado, and Wasatch Front 100 in Utah. “Because I’m a nerd, I wanted to know more about, what is this beautiful amazing thing that has come into my life and made it infinitely better? So I wanted to learn about the history.” A great way to immerse herself into ultra running was to just do it. So, she chose races that were at the core of the sport. “It’s not hard to convince me to do anything.” She will be one of only five women taking on the challenge this year.
When we spoke about how she juggles being a single mom to her two kids, working full time and training for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, she expressed, “It’s all about balance.” Her kids come first. She fits her training in when they are at school or at practice, and in and around work. Her kids come to many of her ultra events, and she goes to all of their activities, they figure it out as a team, “What are OUR priorities, what are OUR goals?” They love to explore together, venturing on backpacking trips every year or skiing in the mountains out west. “They feel really lucky to have a mom who has introduced them to these adventures.”
When Sharon isn’t running, you can find her exploring with her two kids, rock climbing, skiing, backpacking, reading or playing the various instruments she loves. Her heart truly belongs to running and the trails, “There’s nothing in the world that has ever made me feel more alive, and more like a small part of a big world that’s just so beautiful and amazing when I’m running for hours and hours and hours, sometimes I even cry, I just love being out there.”