After graduating from Wesleyan University in 2018, Tate Knight ’14 faced the challenge of moving on from his high-intensity formulaic training that came with competing for the Wesleyan cross country team and both the indoor and outdoor track and field teams.
Shockingly enough, he found the best way to move on was to simply run more. “After graduating I found myself going on really long, slow runs, just taking it all in and enjoying the routes more so than my run,” said Tate, whose mother is longtime Loomis Chaffee boys cross country coach Sally Knight. Eventually, the same routes on the same roads began to bore Tate, so he began to find local trails and started running even farther, investing in a water backpack that also held small snacks that he could eat during his 20- to sometimes 30-mile-long runs.
At the end of the 2018 summer, Tate moved to Boulder, Colo., what he described as “the mecca for trail running and ultra-running in the U.S.” to begin working for Boulder County Public Health. From there he met some other long-distance runners and joined a club, learning all new trails and adjusting to high-altitude running with friends. His confidence grew enough for him to enter his first ultramarathon, the Sage Burner Trail Races 50k, and after placing seventh overall, he decided he needed to do more. He went on to win the Quad Rock 50 Miler, drawing national attention and pushing him to go for even longer, more competitive runs.
With his eyes on something bigger, Tate called Phil Sanderson ’86, who was coached by Sally while he was at Loomis. Sanderson is a veteran when it comes to ultramarathons. In 2018, Phil won the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, a series of four 100-mile races in a span of 11 weeks, and he was second overall in the Grand Slam this year. “Phil had some really good advice, how to train, the proper nutrition during training and during the race, and although some of the things he recommended to me, like bringing running poles, seemed silly, I am really glad I took his advice, because everything he told me helped me compete in my next race,” Tate said.
That race, the Leadville Trail 100-Miler, known as the “Race Across the Sky,” is considered one of the most elite ultramarathons in the world, and with some serious training, help from his friends, and good racing, Tate placed fifth, a result he did not expect at all. “I am glad that I did so well in competition, but for me it isn’t about placing first. Maybe I will make that my goal one day, but for now I just want to run,” he commented, adding that he is looking forward to resetting and joining his friends for long distance runs. “Leadville was like going to Disney World for the first time; there were people everywhere, sponsors and all sorts of stuff, but I think I would rather run on the homemade slip-and-slide with my friends and just enjoy the rhythm that I have found going on runs with them.”
“Who knows? Maybe I will go for the Grand Slam like Phil,” said Tate, “but for now I am focused on recovering from the Leadville 100 and looking forward to getting back out on the trails I’ve fallen in love with since moving out to Boulder.”