Whether running on trails, roads, or sidewalks, Sarah Redford isn’t one to back down from a challenge. While she hasn’t raced for a team, the Cheshire High School English Teacher has always had a competitive drive to push herself to a personal-best time or to simply reach the finish line.
“I didn’t do cross country in high school, but I used to run on the trails growing up in Cheshire,” reflected Redford, who assists with the CHS girls’ cross country team. “I started out doing half marathons and 10K races and then joining Cheshire cross country led me to trying 5K events. Running is nice because it is a sport that you can keep doing throughout your life.”
Last month, Redford pushed herself through a new challenge. While being 23 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, she completed a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, and a full marathon in consecutive days (Oct. 8-11) for the Hartford Marathon Foundation’s Grit & Gutsy 4 Challenge.
“I thought it would be difficult. I had never done that many miles before in four days,” explained Redford. “In the past, I had wanted to do a challenge like that at Disney World, but felt that it is too far (to go to Florida).”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, many events have kept traditional races going with virtual formats.
“When COVID-19 happened, a lot of my races got changed or canceled,” stated Redford. “I’ve still tried to keep up with my mileage.”
Since she had exercised during her previous pregnancies, Redford felt comfortable that her body could handle starting the challenge and then see what happens.
“I talked to my doctor. The latest research says that it is still healthy to get exercise while you are pregnant,” Redford explained. “I kept it (my pace) slow and didn’t race anyone.”
While she enjoys the camaraderie of the racing community, Redford feels that there are positives to running by yourself in virtual events.
“I’ve never been a fan of big races,” reflected Redford. “The starts make me nervous with all the people packed together.”
In planning for the virtual challenge, she decided to start out running the half marathon around Wallingford Center on Oct. 8.
“I did the half first, so I wouldn’t have to do the two longest distances back-to-back,” Redford explained.
The next day, she completed a 5K loop around her neighborhood in Wallingford.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect at first,” recalled Redford, who ran 20 miles a day leading up to the challenge. “I knew that I could walk if I needed to, but fortunately I was able to run straight through for most of the races.”
On Oct. 10, Redford went for a 10-K run on the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Cheshire.
“My best time came that day. I spent time picking my route for that one,” explained Redford.
On the course, she saw that some people had set up refreshment tables for racers.
“One person offered me water, but I was a mile away from finishing, so I kept on running,” stated Redford. “When the (CHS) girls went for their cross country practice that same day, they also saw a lot of the people on the trail. It was good for them to see the passion that people have for running.”
To end her challenge, Redford traveled with her family to Mystic for the marathon. While her husband, children, and brother stayed with her grandmother, Redford started out running in the center of Mystic and continued through Groton Long Point and Bluff Point State Park.
“It is pretty on the water and the route was relatively flat,” reflected Redford.
For the first time in her four-day challenge, she stopped running to enjoy the scenery at Groton Long Point and have a bathroom break.
“I came along a beach and it was so beautiful. I went in the water up to my knees,” explained Redford. “With the virtual aspect, I like how you don’t feel compelled to have to race other people.”
Redford collected shells on the beach and ended up writing her race timeline on one of them. For completing the 48.6-mile trek over four days, she received a T-shirt and a medal from the Hartford Marathon Foundation.
“There is a special feeling when you finish. When you are running, it doesn’t seem as impressive because you’ve been training up to it,” stated Redford, who completed the marathon in just under five hours. “A marathon is challenging on your body. I took off for four days after all my runs.”
In becoming the CHS girls’ cross country assistant coach three years ago, Redford enjoys sharing her passion with young people.
“It is good for them to see how they can improve with time,” said Redford. “It is important to have your own goals.”
Redford feels that Head Coach Rob Schaefer sets a positive example with the Rams.
“He loves the sport and has such a good relationship with the girls. Rob empowers them so much,” explained Redford. “Some people want to finish the race and others want to break state records. He treats all of them equally.”