April 18, 2018

Meet the 26-year-old nurse who shocked the world at the Boston Marathon

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on April 12, 2019.

    Sarah Sellers, a 26-year-old nurse and hobby runner from Arizona, came in a surprising second place at the Boston Marathon last year—and all eyes are on her now as she gears up to run the race again Monday.

    Millennial nurses are a third of our workforce—here’s how to retain them

    Who is Sarah Sellers?

    Sellers graduated from Weber State University in Utah in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA in nursing. During her time there, she was a nine-time Big Sky conference champion in track and field. According to her former college running coach, Paul Pilkington, she "should have been an NCAA All-American," but she suffered a broken foot during her senior year.

    But Sellers is not your typical marathon medalist, according to the Washington Post. She doesn't have sponsors or an agent, but works full-time as a nurse anesthetist at Banner Health Center in Arizona.

    An unlikely finish

    According to the Post, Sellers signed up to run in last year's Boston Marathon—her second marathon ever, according to the Boston Globe—because her brother, then 24-year-old Ryan Callister, was running it as well. She spent the few months before the race managing her nursing responsibilities while juggling a training schedule that demands running up to 100 miles across six days per week. Sellers typically logged her miles at 4 a.m., before her nursing shift, or at 7 p.m., after her shift, the Post reports.

    According to CNN, last year's race was the coldest Boston Marathon in 30 years, with rain and heavy winds. Despite those conditions, Sellers finished the race with a time of two hours, 44 minutes, and four seconds. According to CNN, that time qualifies her for the "B" standard U.S. Olympic trials, and it put her about four minutes behind the race's winner, Desiree Linden—who became the first American woman to win the marathon in 33 years.

    According to her husband, Blake Sellers, Sarah didn't know that she finished in second until someone told her. Even then, he said, "She still didn't believe them."

    Sellers said that she believes the poor weather conditions worked to her advantage, as some prominent racers, such as Mamitu Daska from Ethiopia, dropped out. "Obviously the conditions were the wild card that everyone got dealt, but I think it played to my advantage," Sellers said. She added, "Looking at my time going into the race, I shouldn't be on the same page as any of the top 20 women. … They're in a different league than me."

    For her second-place finish, Sellers won $75,000 in prize money, and she hasn't yet decided what she's going to do with it. "I don't even have any plans yet. I had no idea that was even a possibility," she said, adding that she and her husband both just finished graduate school and might use the money to "put a dent in our student loans."

    Gearing up for her next Boston Marathon

    Sellers last year said she wants to qualify for the "A" standard for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials, which is a time of two hours and 37 minutes. This year, she said her goal is to run the race in under two hours and 30 minutes. To train for the event, Sanders scaled back her nursing schedule to three days a week, but she doesn't want to give it up. "It's really rewarding and gives me perspective on life," she said of nursing last year (Soong, Washington Post, 4/16; Germano, Wall Street Journal, 4/16; Reiss, Boston Globe, 4/16; Martin, CNN, 4/17; West, Sports Illustrated, 4/10).

    Millennial nurses are a third of our workforce—here’s how to retain them

    In 2016, millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the United States. As more millennials have entered the nursing workforce, health care leaders have confronted a growing challenge: young nurses are turning over at higher rates than their older peers, especially early in their careers.

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