Sam Lewis Was Told She’d Never Run Pain-Free 

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Ellie Pell

By: Ellie Pell

Ellie is an equal opportunity DMer with no shame in a cold call. She ran fast once and will remind you that it was before supershoes. Recently she set the FKT from her kitchen table to the fridge. Record pending drug test results.

A note from Freetrail: You know Ellie Pell from the Freetrail Fam Pod, but did you know she has an insatiable need to get to know you, and I mean REALLY get to know you? Like, what’s your favorite kind of cheese? “You Made it Weird” is Ellie’s brainchild because while she loves that these athletes are mega-talented she also wants to know what ELSE IS THERE?! Look for You Made it Weird every Friday. 

You Made it Weird With Sam Lewis

I met Sam in…France! Was UTMB 2022 really the first time we met!? I remember walking up to her at the airport, neither of us speaking a lick of the language but really enamored by the amount of sandwiches just out in the open. Like two rookies, we tried to exchange our currency and ended up with the currency for the wrong country before realizing it was simplest to use plastic. We somehow ended up on a van to Chamonix (thanks Sage!) and into a week of bonding, eating, and discussing our favorite topic – KINESIOLOGY AND THE PURPOSE OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY. Because after all, why are we here? In France? Watching people demolish themselves? Since that trip, Sam has become one of my dear friends and someone I look to for thoughtful commentary on female bodies, female experiences and well rounded examination of why we run the way we do. I am so lucky to have her in my life. Sam recently took 5th at the Canyons Endurance Runs 50km, so again I will watch her run in Chamonix while I eat baguettes and wonder about the madness.

Find Sam on Instagram, Strava, and Ultrasignup.

Sam Lewis running for Team USA

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Sam Lewis, and I am a PhD candidate at the University of Idaho in the Center for ETHICS* studying philosophy of sport and sport ethics. For my dissertation research, I am developing a coaching curriculum via a podcast, so stay tuned when the pod drops! I am in my seventh year as an Assistant Distance Coach with University of Idaho’s Track & Field and Cross Country team. I am also a professional trail and mountain runner for On (which is how I met Ellie 👾 ).

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado with the Rocky Mountains as my playground. I ran cross countryand track at Oregon State University but spent most of my career recovering from a stress fracture in my back. At one point a neuro-spine specialist told me I would never run again pain-free…I love proving humans wrong. And I am obsessed with cats and corgis.

Do any of your group chats have names? If so, what are you willing to share? How did they get that name? What is a major topic of discussion in them?

I have two group chats with my two college teammate besties. On Instagram, the group chat is “FAS” for “Fat Ass Shit” and as runners, I am sure many of us can relate to wild stories about the mid-run bathroom stop. We share hilarious videos on a variety of topics. We have another group chat via WhatsApp titled, “3 Women Sometimes in the Kitchen but also Bas Ass Women who do other stuff” in which we talk about life. Now I am realizing that “Bas” was a typo, but we are too busy doing awesome shit to change it 😉

If you could change one thing about your favorite social media platform, what would it be?

Social media is tricky…if we are being honest, social media is probably not good for us because none of us are immune to the comparison traps that social media inevitably creates. And in an age where we are “technically” more connected than ever, our humanity may be more disconnected…just go out to dinner and everyone is more interested in their phones than each other. However, maybe if Instagram existed only for sharing hilarious animal videos, the app could make us happier? Here’s my Strava “hot take” (For the record, I have a Strava profile, so all my training is uploaded to the platform, but I do not engage with the platform for my own wellbeing).

What is a book of fiction that you really enjoyed, for no other reason than you liked it?

I was obsessed with The Hunger Games; I mean who doesn’t want to be Katniss?!

What is one song you’ve been listening to on repeat recently?

At the Treadmill Challenge in Missoula, Montana in February, all the athletes picked songs that we walked onto stage to. I chose “I Will Go to War” by Tessa Thompson from Creed II, potentially the best hype-song EVER. Otherwise, I am not on Spotify (never switched from Pandora) and listen to the radio…

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you love?

Sourdough bread…sourdough is my favorite type of bread now. I never made my own, but enough people around me were, so I just got to mooch on their baking skills.

What is one trend that started in 2020 that you hate?

ONLINE CLASSES. Ok, online classes existed prior to 2020, but universities really encourage their online education now. I know online classes and programs give access to more people all over the world, which is cool. Though humans need connection and regardless of what people want to argue, online classes do not provide the same connection with your instructor and peers that you gain from actually being in the classroom. While Zoom creates convenience, most of us become “Zoombies” who cannot pay attention.

What are the last three emojis you used?


What is the last thing you bought online?

Skratch Super High-Carb Sport Drink Mix, Raspberry flavor.

What is your most controversial food opinion?

For about the last decade, my lunch has consisted of leftovers from dinner. I never bothered to use a microwave to warm my food. Cold lunch every day. I am not anti-microwave, but microwaving my food required one more step before I could eat, which was just too much work. My cold food habit drove roommates and my family crazy. (My major professor has a microwave in her office, so now I tend to use the microwave…)

Sam Lewis running at Broken Arrow

What three videos are at the top of your YouTube recommended homepage?

Why is YouTube’s recommended homepage so complicated? I am confused, but if I go to YouTube, I am either watching trailers for movies or videos my coaching peers have sent me to watch from TRACK: All-Access (workout videos from different collegiate and professional running groups across the country).

Which Allie is your favorite?


What argument in mass media do you not understand or think is a worthless issue?

The climate change debate. Let’s stop wasting our time debating if climate change is real and start being proactive about what we all can do to help our home.

When you go home for the holidays, what is the food or tradition that it wouldn’t be the holidays without?

My family and I are traditionally untraditional during the holidays. Though we do always find ourselves touring the Christmas lights in town. Growing up, my family was extremely competitive in every aspect, even the amount of Christmas lights on our house…

When I say in-seam you say…?

USATF and Nike could use some help with this one…

When has your ego caused you to do something you sort of regret but also would describe as wild and worth it?

My family and I hiked Mt. Fuji in 2018. The goal was to start in the early morning so that we would arrive at the summit to watch the sunrise. As we started the ascent, I became really competitive with the other hikers on the trail, and I started to play a game of how many humans I could pass. I ditched my family and started running to the top of Mt. Fuji. I summited wayyyy before sunrise…and it was cold and super windy at the summit. I put on all the layers I had in my pack and tried to find some shelter from the wind. I laid on the ground, curled into a ball because there were no places to hide from the wind. I was shivering, I have never been so cold in my life. I kept hoping my family would show up…and just when I was about to leave because I was no longer in a “safe” situation, my parents finally arrived. My mom had a safety blanket, and I spent the next five hours or so trying to warm up. I was not adequately prepared for the wind, and I do not know why I would not leave the summit sooner, but I am probably too competitive for my own good and extremely stubborn. But are you really living life to the fullest if you don’t risk hypothermia occasionally?

What was your worst running fuel decision? What was the surprising best?

I have spent most of my time in the sub-ultra space, so I am a relative rookie to the concept that nutrition is an important part of the racing process. As I started doing longer races in 2023 and experimenting with different fuel sources, every race I did had some version of a fueling error, which was frustrating, but I always learn more from failure. I raced the Verbier Marathon last year in Switzerland and about 12 miles into the race, I started projectile vomiting anything I tried to consume for the next 2.5 hours. When I arrived at the last aid station with about six miles to go, I ate a few orange slices and filled my flasks with coke. As soon as I left the aid station, I projectile vomited…I have to say it was impressive there was anything left in my system, and I wish someone had caught the scene on camera. Though the remaining coke I had revived me, and I crushed the last six miles…so nutrition troubleshooting at its finest.

What is your death row meal?

My Grandpa’s stew which includes beef, carrots, potatoes, celery, and tomatoes over rice with a side of poi (poi is a paste made from taro root, very popular in Hawaii). I requested his stew for all my birthdays growing up. My grandpa’s secret ingredient, cheap beer.

Out and back or looped course? Why?

Loop course because you have an opportunity to experience different terrain and landscapes the entire time!

Barkley or 24H track race? Why?

Definitely Barkley, it’s basically an adventure race in the woods. My navigation skills would need to improve significantly though…

When I say PTRA you say?

Community. One of the reasons I love the trail running world is the sense of community that exists, more so than in other spaces in running. And the PTRA (Pro Trail Runners Association) is another example of the trail community coming together to make a positive impact on each other and the environments we explore.

Sam Lewis

What is one thing that absolutely scares you? Why?

Great white sharks. I rarely dream, or at least remember what I dream about but if I do remember, I always find myself in the ocean trying to outswim great white sharks, which is impossible and therefore terrifying.

What is a time you felt you didn’t measure up? How did you get through that?

My rookie year in the trail world was 2019 and I achieved every goal I had. I represented Team USA twice at the NACAC Mountain Running Championships and the World Mountain Running Championships in the Classic Mountain Race. I also won the USATF Trail Half Marathon Championships and was named the 2019 USATF Sub-Ultra Runner of the Year. The success I had in 2019 led to me signing my first professional contract with On in 2020, something I never thought I would do. I think having such an insane introduction to the trail world was hard moving forward because how do I match that first year? And when the world was hit by COVID, I found myself inundated by imposter syndrome coupled with spending the last few years recovering from a gallbladder disease scare and two hernia surgeries (yes hernias are very uncommon in women and I had bilateral inguinal hernias, I must be lucky!). As I have navigated the “weather” as my mental performance coach Shannon Thompson describes all the things that distract us from being present (fear, doubts, and so forth) and focusing on being healthy, rediscovering the freedom I was running with in 2019 has been a process. And while the “weather” will always exist to an extent, I am focusing on being curious. If curiosity drives what I do versus fear, then anything can be a playground and running can be play. Or as the cool kids say, “F**k around and find out.”

Who is another runner that flies under the radar that we should all get to know?

Zach Friedley’s awesomeness doesn’t fly under the radar, but I think he would be an excellent human to feature in YMIW.

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