Ocala teenager Luke Sanchez takes on ultrarunning, which are races longer than 26.2 miles.
When Luke Sanchez says he has to run, it’s not slang for leaving. No, Luke literally means he’s going to run, usually very far, very fast.
The 14-year-old Marion Oaks resident started running when he was 6 and competed in and won his first 5K when he was 12. Luke hasn’t stopped racing since. In fact, he’s expanded his competitions to include half-marathons, marathons, triathlons, 50 and 100 milers. He’s raced in Florida, New York, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and Arizona.
“After I ran and won three 5Ks, I wanted a bigger challenge,” says Luke, who is home schooled. “I just really love running, especially trail running out in nature.”
In 2017, Luke won his age group in the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half-Marathon, Fort DeSoto Halfathon and Lake Minneola Sunset Sprint Triathlon. Last December, he won his age group and was the second overall male finisher in the Deer Dodge 50 Mile. Luke finished the race in 10:32:31—that’s 10 hours, 32 minutes and 31 seconds. The race took place in the Blackwater River State Forest in Milton, Florida. Luke’s overall placing qualified him for the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile on April 14, near Healdsburg, California.
On February 3-4, Luke ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville, Texas. In cold rain and over muddy trails in the Huntsville State Park, Luke finished the distance in 30 hours and six minutes.
“It was a tough race, and I was happy to finish it,” says Luke, who runs 10-20 miles, six days a week on the Cross Florida Greenway Trails. “My next goal is the Bigfoot 200 in August in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.”
Luke comes by his running abilities naturally. His mother, Kristy, has been running and racing since she was 18. A newborn/postpartum nurse at Munroe Regional Medical Center, Kristy is Luke’s training partner.
“I don’t race past the marathon distance. I leave that to Luke,” says Kristy. “He is very goal-oriented. I just do my best to support him.”
Luke, who needs new running shoes every five weeks, starts most days with a spinach/orange juice shake. On race days, breakfast is a cold baked potato with salt and a Hammer Nutrition energy bar. During races, it’s more energy bars. His favorite post-race recovery meal is hamburgers and french fries.
Luke will graduate high school at 15 and then begin his college courses. When asked about his future career ambitions, Luke is quick to answer.
“I want to be a professional ultrarunner and travel the world,” he says. “Those are my two favorite things, running and traveling.”