New Jersey native Sarah Sanborn is a race-running massage therapist and graduate student who aims to stick people with needles for a living. Nope, it’s not voodoo, this badass triathlete is on the fast-track to becoming an acupuncturist in the state of New York. But her path to alternative health, while victorious, hilarious, and wholly inspiring, wasn’t painless.
“I’ve gotten migraine headaches several times a week since I was two years old, and I’ve only had a handful of pain free days in my entire life,” Sarah admits. “At some point in my teenage years after seeing all the specialists and getting no answers, I managed to tuck the pain away and forget about it as best I could. My body remained a mystery and I just didn’t do a lot of normal physical things. When I started doing triathlons I realized that it isn’t normal for people to have burning acute leg pain, or to have shooting arm spasms after swimming that would almost bring me to tears, on top of the consistent head pain. But I still didn’t see a doctor until I ran the Staten Island Half Marathon and felt like someone stabbed me in the knee with an ice pick about a mile in.”
The next day Sarah went to see a chiropractor, and continued to train through the pain as best as she could. Without health insurance, and seemingly without a proverbial and literal leg to stand on, she turned to a friend who was a licensed massage therapist to unload her body-related burden.
“After a long conversation about understanding my body, I quit my job the next day and started massage school two weeks later,” she says. Her goal now, as a Master’s of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine candidate, is to continue to use her hands and heart for healing, far more globally than her survival instinct simply dictates.
“It’s 1000% narcissistic, really,” she jokes. “Everything I do is because I want to know how to heal myself and then help other people. Although being there for others, being empathetic, listening, connecting and touching grounds me and does make me feel less like a leaf of crazy spinning in the wind.”
Even though she often feels like she’s on the brink of a breakdown from physical stress, Sarah has managed to make quite a name for herself as a runner, a daredevil, and a sneaker model in the making.
After a long conversation about understanding my body, I quit my job the next day and started massage school two weeks later.
“The first day after I moved to Brooklyn, I ran into a friend from high school who is a serious runner,” she reveals when asked about how she got into racing. “We’d been running together for a while when she asked if I wanted to run a marathon with her through Team in Training. No, I did not. But I had a friend with Lymphoma, so a triathlon seemed like a good idea. I grew up swimming, I rode my bike everywhere and now running with Rebekah I could easily run a 10k. So I did it. And fell in love with this amazing community of people. I discovered that I love to swim, boys on bikes are hotter than other boys, and running is never not awful. And in Prospect Park there were phenomenal people who will support you through anything. No one cared if I was fast, slow, fat or slim. Brunch followed runs, beer followed swims, and loving friendships occurred with ease. And over the year, I met more and more crazy triathlon people. I found a home, not with the teams of people who want to win, but with the people who don’t wear watches and don’t care if they win, or lose. I’ve run as support for friends doing ultramarathons dressed as a cheerleader, run color runs, costumed relays, learned how to kiteboard while wearing a cape…”
She’s even tried synchronized swimming, and her next event is a marathon at the quirky, desert-based artists’ festival Burning Man! And after she graduates?
“I want to open a wellness center when I finish my Master’s. Massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, psychotherapy and yoga. The body houses the mind and holds so many emotions. Sometimes the best path to emotional transformation is through the body, and sometimes you need someone to help you deal with what your body deals out,” she says.
Laudable goals from an enlivening girl!
To check out how Sarah trains for her triathlons, check out www.resoluteevents.com. Go, Sarah, go!