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Runner Interview: Sawna Guadarrama (@sawna)

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Runner Interview: Sawna Guadarrama


  • Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

Sawna running

When and why did you start running?

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I grew up playing water polo and swimming and was forced to run as a punishment or part of the workout. Unfortunately for my coach, I never saw it as punishment when I enjoyed it far too much. I ended up seeking out more opportunities to run more, longer and farther. It wasn’t until I was out of school that I signed up for a marathon while fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society with Team in Training. My father had just recovered from a form of Leukemia and fundraising while training was my form of giving back to others still battling the disease.

Describe your ideal race (let us know if it’s real or fictional, and describe details including the location, climate, terrain and duration)

I imagine my ideal race to be in a remote location I wouldn’t normally run on my own and preferably far from home. It would be a hands on my knees cold sweat ascent through wilderness mixed in with scenic ridge lines and quad crushing technical descents in preferably warm weather or a mix of light rain. This “ideal” race would range anywhere between 100k-100 miles, making it quite the adventure!

Sawna running

Tell us about your favourite trail

This past year I’ve devoted a plethora of time to exploring new trails which has been an incredible experience. I’ve grown to love these new places and terrains however nothing pulls my heartstrings more than the local trails here in the San Gabriel Mountains. If I would have to say my favorite- I frequent two peaks the most but from various trails. Strawberry peak and Mt. Baldy (peak), both in the San Gabriel mountains, have almost any range of difficulty level you may seek and the views are breathtaking. One would never guess that Los Angeles has such a wonderful selection of trails.

This past year I’ve devoted a plethora of time to exploring new trails which has been an incredible experience.

What has been your biggest running / adventure challenge to date?

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I have to say that I’ve only been running trails for the last four years and most of that time was spent on well groomed, easily accessible local trails. This past year I vowed to let myself be more open, more vulnerable to new experiences that the mountains had to offer. I wanted to seek adventure rather that stay inside the very cozy comfort zone. And part of that consisted of exploring more outside of Los Angeles.

My biggest adventure and definitely one of my favorite experiences was driving to Silverton, Colorado with my fur-kid Juniper and spending a couple of weeks running the trails that make up Hardrock 100 mile endurance race. I use the word running very lightly- coming from sea level to running trails that start at 10,000 feet were a challenge in itself. During that time Juniper and I- along with a few other friends, explored breath taking ridge-lines, steep ascents and very technical and at times scary descents. During this trip both Juniper and I climber our first 14er, well Juniper technically ran circles around me the entire time as I ran, albeit, very slowly.

Sawna running

Tell us about your greatest running fail, we’ve all had – or will have – them at some point!

WHERE DO I START? I really enjoy the idea of “failing” and how often I feel that occurs. But what I really love about the idea is the lesson I receive from it. What have I learned? How will I grow and improve? Some days are really great and others, well, I put them in the failed category but that makes me strive to improve. In a way I seek failing in order to improve. When I think of my greatest fail I instantly think of Angeles Crest 100. It’s one of experiences that left a bad taste in my mouth… and three years later it’s still lingering (Yup, there it is- I taste it). It was my first attempt at a one hundred mile distance race and I felt as though my training went perfectly leading up to the race. Unfortunately you can not predict how your body will handle that sort of distance. I fell during a descent around mile 28 that left a strain in my calf and after that point everything sort of fell apart. The weather was not as hot as previous years nor previous training days and however I kept my nutrition and electrolyte consumption the same instead of adjusting. My body started to fall apart as I attempted to continue forward despite the inability to actually run. I ended the race at mile 75 after nearly crawly the last six miles but I was perfectly happy with my decision. Going forward and hurting myself further or DNF-ing and being able to rest, recover and continue running in a few weeks. To this day I still get memory pains when running those same trails I could barely crawl at the time.

What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan?

Lately I’ve fallen pretty far off the “training” grid. When I think of my time spent outside I’ve sought more quality time outdoors as a form of training. The days I feel strong, I run hard and the days I don’t I take it easy. What get’s me through the front door on those days that I am less inspired is the look on Juniper’s face. I don’t necessarily need a plan when I have a dog that is so eager to be outdoors that I can not possibly say no to! Also her energy levels! I don’t know any other dog that runs 50k training runs with me and is ready for another round the next day. She’s my inspiration to train and run harder.

What advice would you give to a new trail runner?

Be present in the moment, because everything is temporary- moments, feelings, experiences, even trails are constantly changing. ENJOY THEM!

Sawna running

What is your favourite bit of running kit, and why?

I would definitely say bright, bold prints. I’m happiest when I’m wearing bright colors and I feel as though some running brands lean toward more dark colors. Boausa shorts have fun prints that make any run a little bit more fun and goofy. If not fun shorts- I am normally found running in my stance bright bold printed socks.

Be present in the moment, because everything is temporary- moments, feelings, experiences, even trails are constantly changing. ENJOY THEM!

What challenges / races / adventures are you planning for the coming year?

OH my! What am I not planning? You will find me running with my fellow Run like a girl squad (runlikeagirl.ca) in Costa Rica in March. Followed by running one of my favorite races, Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April and inevitably back in Colorado exploring and pacing for Hardrock 100 in June and July. My biggest, both in challenge and in racing, will be running Fatdog 120 mile race in BC, Canada in August. That will definitely be quite the adventure!

Whats your favourite running/adventure book, and which songs keep you going when things get tough?

That’s difficult. You will always find me reading a new book but I do tend to re-read some of my favorites. Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and Life of Pi are just a few that I re-read if I need a little reminder of adventure. Whether factual or fictional- there is always a lesson to be learned. The two I’d add to that list would be Annapurna- may be the most thrilling mountaineering book and Turn Right at Machu Picchu- The quest that accidentally found Machu Picchu in 1911 and a how recently a journalist relived his steps.
When it comes to songs- I sing during in my head. Sometimes out loud and very terrible. The two songs I sing (or whistle) are “I believe in a thing called love” by the Darkness and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. If I’m signing, humming or whistling those songs- you know I’m having a gosh darn great time!

Finally, What do you get up to when you’re not running or adventuring?

When my eyes open in the morning to when they close at night- I consider that time adventuring.
I run dogs in the greater Los Angeles area as a part time job while mixing in some bar-tending work. The hours are flexible and allow me to do what I’m passionate about- be outdoors! Lately I haven’t been able to run as much as my heart desires due to a lingering injury but I’ve definitely had fun with yoga, cycling, rock climbing and anything I can enjoy with Juniper!

Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed Sawna, we are now officially inspired to run some of those races… and Juniper sounds like an awesome trail-buddy!
Happy Trails!

Social media links:



Mentioned in this Interview and recommended by Sawna:

  • Into The Wild (BOOK)
  • Into Thin Air (BOOK)
  • Life of Pi (BOOK)
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