How Olympic Runner Sarah Attar Finds Her Rhythm in the Sierra

Testing a personal ecosystem of Icebreaker merino wool apparel over 7 days on the trails around Mammoth Lakes, CA

How Olympic Runner Sarah Attar Finds Her Rhythm in the Sierra

Author

Sarah Attar

Photographer

Sarah Attar

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Sarah Attar is a California-based professional runner, 2x Olympian, and artist. In 2012 she made history as Saudi Arabia’s first female Olympic runner.

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I find a rhythm in the mountains.
When the morning air is chilled.
And the glow of daybreak first touches the peaks.
I find a rhythm in the mountains.
When the dirt trail meanders forward.
And the granite illuminates as the day awakens.
I find a rhythm in the mountains.
When the scents of sage and sunrise fill my lungs.
And the quiet and calm of the land become my mind.

There’s a simplicity in closeness with nature. A primal resource, our connection is deeper than we may fully perceive. We are of the earth, illuminated by the sunrise, and pulled by the moon as the tides are. With the seasons, like plants and light we grow and expand and rest and hibernate. Evolving and revolving with the earth. In these moments of recognition I experience my calmest and most genuine self. A self at home on the trail in the Eastern Sierra. A place and space where I feel free and inspired.

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To run here is to find a rhythm with the land. I feel drawn to these trails that wind through canyons, up and around peaks, along rivers and streams. Running allows me to stay close to the way of the land. I want to emulate the strength and steadiness of the mountains, the agility of the trails, and flow of the rivers that nourish the land, traveling down from the peaks. As I run deeper into the mountains, my breathing deepens and my body pulls in more of the sage scented air. I feel it embracing my being, furthering this synergy of natural elements. 

As a professional runner, my apparel too engages in this dialogue. I feel the natural merino fibers on my skin, warming me in the chill of the morning, cooling me in the midday sun, moving with me as I run every day. Wool is strong and stable like these mountains, it is fluid like the rivers, it is the Earth on my body as my body is on the earth.

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An opportunity to test key pieces from Icebreaker’s fall collection recently brought me back to the Sierra for a week of living and training among the mountains. The simplicity of my routine—running, reading, writing, climbing, camping—reminded me of the simplicity I wish to embrace in all areas of my life. A minimal yet versatile wardrobe was essential.

The resiliency of the natural merino wool material, combined with the thermoregulating, moisture managing, and odor suppressing qualities, allowed me to wear these clothes continually for a full week without washing—crucial for multi-day side trips on the trail and deeper into the wilderness. It’s by nature’s design that this is possible.

"To move well in this environment, at altitude, I try to emulate nature’s patterns and strategies—I breathe well, stand tall, build my endurance and resilience, and stay strong yet soft."

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Native to New Zealand’s rugged Southern Alps, the merino is one of the world’s most ancient and toughest breeds of sheep, living comfortably among scorching summers and freezing winters. I want to be like the merino sheep, thriving beautifully in the mountains in all conditions, fully embracing and engaging in the elements. They are not only in the landscape, but also of the landscape.

I recently discovered the term biomimicry, which is essentially an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time tested patterns and strategies. To move well in this environment, at altitude, I also try to emulate nature’s time tested patterns and strategies. I breathe well, stand tall, build my endurance and resilience, and stay strong yet soft. Similarly, the merino sheep have survived the test of time, and their fleece has evolved to adapt to the demands of nature.

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Delta Long Sleeve Zip & Rush Windbreaker

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Tech Trainer Hybrid Tights, Amplify Short Sleeve Low Crewe & Delta Long Sleeve Zip
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The merino wool fiber that comes from the fleece of this specific breed of sheep is an incredible feet of natural engineering—it’s incredibly resilient, thermoregulating, actively manages moisture, biodegrades, has natural UV protection, suppresses odors, and is incredibly soft. And unlike synthetic fibers, merino works with my own personal microclimate and ecosystem.

While running my favorite trails the Amplify Short Sleeve Low Crewe acted as a foundation, the Delta Long Sleeve Zip provided warmth, and the Rush Windbreaker shielded against the elements. At camp the same pieces offered support in my rest and recovery. Washing less and wearing natural fibers also meant more time on the trails, less resources, and most importantly less micro-plastic pollution washed into waterways—a synthetic clothing item can release up to 700,000 plastic microfibers in a single wash, silently contributing to the mass of micro-fibers that already makes up 85% of human-made debris found on shorelines around the world.

Engaging in these landscapes naturally brings a responsibility to protect these landscapes. By staying close to nature, in one’s physical surroundings as well as clothing choices, we may embrace simplicity. This means more chilled mountain mornings and daybreak touches. It means more dirt and granite and pine, and more time embracing the calm and quiet, the rhythm of the land and of the mountains.

Evolving and revolving with the earth, I know and feel the interconnectedness. I smell the sage and feel the merino on my skin. There’s a simplicity in closeness with nature.

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Published 09-24-2019

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