By Alice Hunter Morrison
Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, Lonely Planet Marrakesh Correspondent, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.
“At any time of life, we can resume the race and be champions”
Photo: Dino Bonelli
Carlos Sa, an amazing endurance runner, is the ultimate comeback kid.
Born in Vilar do Monte (Barcelos, Portugal) in 1973, Carlos was a star athlete as a child. When he was 19, he decided to give up the rigorous life of an athlete and start L-I-V-I-N-G it up. Decadent foods, drinks and cigarettes were a staple for him. By the age of 32 he weighed 211 pounds and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.
Photo: Carlos Sa
After looking inside himself, he decided this was not the life he wanted to lead. He decided to lose the weight and become an athlete once again. His open will and determination enabled him to rise to the top.
“I started running again to feel better, physically, and also to find a new path in my life, a healthier one,” he said. “But I got so passionate that I decided then to start testing my limits, and that is my goal, to see how far can I go.”
Within 5 years, he was a serious competitor known around the world. In 2013 he triumphed at Badwater 135, one of the most rigorous races on the planet. He came in first after running the 217km non-stop race through temperatures that reached 122 degrees in Death Valley in California.
His list of first place wins is long and distinguished. In addition to Badwater 135, he won the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (Madeira – Portugal), Trail Morzine – Avoriaz 43km (Alpes France), Trail dos Abutres – 18km (Portugal), Trail Glazig – 18km + 42km (France), and the Trail terras de Sicó – 38km (Portugal). He is also the Portuguese Ultra Trail Champion.
Photo: Carlos Sa
Sa also set the world record for the fastest ascent and descent of Aconcágua 6962m (Argentina). On December 27, 2012, he left for Argentina to break the world record of 20 hours and 35 minutes, previously set by Peruvian mountain guide, Holmes Pantoja Bayona, in early 2013. He smashed the previous time with a new record of 15 hours and 42 minutes despite the unbearable conditions with temperatures dipping to 4 degrees below zero and an oxygen level 40% the normal value.
Carlos competes in the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth that consists of 6 marathons in 6 days across the desert. In 2016 he ran as a member of Team I Run 4 Ultra as one of Hope So Bright’s ambassadors to raise ADHD awareness. The badass team placed second and Carlos came in 8th as an individual. He has run MDS every year since 2011, placing 4th twice and being highest placed European.
Photo: Dino Bonelli
Carlos Sa is not only a world-renowned runner, but he is also a successful entrepreneur. He has taken on the role of encouraging the sport of Ultra running in Portugal, a country wonderfully suited to the sport and is responsible for the organization of many trail running competitions under the banner of Carlos Sa Nature Events . In 2016 he organized the BERG® OUTDOOR TransPeneda-Gerês Trail World Championships, a route of 85km with 4500m of elevation gain.
He trains rigorously – between 2 – 5 hours a day – and mixes up running with cycling to avoid strain on the joints and the body. He runs on trails and wears his trainers a size up for comfort. He likes to switch it up his runs to avoid monotony and although he does a lot of training alone, he enjoys the company of others while he runs.
His company, Carlos Sa Nature Events, has 3 major events; Grande Trail da Serra d’Arga, Peneda-Gerês Trail Adventure, and Gerês Marathon. Each event brings a welcome influx of people to aide in the local development of the communities and their economies of Serra de Arga and Peneda-Gerês areas of Portugal. As you can see, he has an unwavering passion in all his pursuits, not only to better himself but also the community around him.
As his successes grow and Carlos Sa Nature Events flourishes, Carlos Sa remains an inspiration to all. Proving that you can transform into your best self at any time.