On June 14, 31-year-old Sarah Roberts Hart was killed while finishing up her morning run in Russell County, Kentucky. She wasn’t feeling well, and had turned back early on her running route with her sister. Somewhere en route to her car, the pregnant Hart was attacked and murdered. Her attack really hit home here at Salty Running and caused us to contemplate balancing running safely with continuing to do what we love.
Her hometown has rallied to honor her memory with a 4 mile run/walk named, appropriately, Run With All Your Hart, to be held on Saturday, August 11. For runners who want to help but can’t make it to the race, the organizers are also offering a virtual run option. Partial proceeds benefit the Sarah Roberts Hart Fund, which will provide scholarships and financial assistance to students pursuing careers and education in pharmacy and medicine. Since its announcement on June 27, the Run With All Your Hart has grown exponentially. As of this writing, the race has over 1,300 entrants and has generated over $36,000 in race registrations and donations.
I spoke with Stephanie Foley, Sarah’s friend and one of the race’s organizers, to learn more about Sarah’s life and to get the details on the race.
By now, most of the running community story is familiar with the tragic story of Sarah Hart’s death. Instead of dwelling on the circumstances surrounding her death, could you tell us more about Sarah, your friend?
Sarah was one of the most well-rounded individuals I have ever had the opportunity to know. She had worked hard to achieve her educational goal and become a pharmacist. She married her high school sweetheart, Ryan Hart. She loved her family and children and was such an organized mother of three, with another one on the way. She had a strong Christian faith and was active in her church. She loved to run. She loved photography. She loved nature in general. She was a true blue UK Wildcat fan!
We are really impressed that this race came together so quickly. Who came up with the idea for a race in Sarah’s memory?
Almost immediately after Sarah’s death, the idea of this race came to life. So many people were interested in doing something to honor Sarah. Her death was sad and tragic, but we wanted to do something to celebrate the life of Sarah and honor her memory. With Sarah’s love for running and being in a community of runners, it seems fitting to have a race in her honor. And we felt this race could offer some healing for our community, as everyone was saddened by Sarah’s death; even people who really did not know her were heartbroken by her death.
What about the race route – does it have any significance?
The race route has a lot of significance. It is rather ironic how it all came about. After we selected the Russell County Auditorium Natatorium Complex as our venue for the race, we began exploring routes. When we mapped out the present route, we noticed it formed the shape of a “hart”. This seemed very fitting. Next, the route measured 4 miles, and from that we decided it would be perfect to name each mile after each child. Avery Mile 1…Addison Mile 2…Archer Mile 3 and Alexander (Sarah & Ryan’s unborn child) Mile 4.
How does the virtual run work and how did that come about?
With social media being so popular, we created a website and Facebook page to keep everyone up to date with our race. Soon after, we had a lady from Tennessee contact us after hearing about Sarah and the race. She wanted to run the race, but was unable to travel to Kentucky for the race. She was a member of a running group and inquired if her group could run there in Tennessee on August 11 at the same time and run the same distance as our race. From there, the idea of being a virtual runner was developed. So many other people soon came forth wanting to join in with us even if they could not make the trip to Russell Springs, KY. Right now, we have over 200 virtual runners. Every state in the US is represented, as well as six [other] countries.
We have been following the number of racers and virtual runners through your Facebook posts – it’s growing really quickly! The community has gotten really involved as well. Were you expecting the response that you got?
We anticipated to have good community support. But, we have been so amazed by the outpouring of support and encouragement we have received. We’ve not had to call and ask for much. Businesses, churches and individuals have stepped up offering financial support, donating items, and volunteering to help us in various ways. All our needs to make this race happen are being met by the generosity of so many wonderful people.
Why do you think the story of Sarah’s death has resonated so much with people?
I think Sarah’s death has resonated so much because she was a young wife and mother who viciously lost her life in a seemingly-safe, close-knit, small-town community. It was just sheer devastation and shock.
How is Sarah’s family doing?
Sarah’s family is certainly sad and learning to adjust without her everyday presence in their lives. But, her family continues to amaze us. We are in awe of their strength. It is evident their strong Christian faith is what holds them together. They know someday they will meet Sarah and baby Alexander in Heaven.
Has organizing the race helped you cope with your loss?
Organizing this race has been a positive thing. It has allowed us to divert our focus from the sad part of Sarah’s death to remembering and honoring her life.
As a runner yourself, have you changed your habits following Sarah’s death?
Yes, I have changed my running habits! Before, I took for granted that I was running in one of the safest places. I even allowed my 14-year-old daughter to walk the sidewalk along Highway 127 [ed. note: where Sarah was running when she was killed] while I ran, and I told her that was the safest place she could walk. I’ve always run in a running group, but sometimes I would run alone. Now I’m an advocate of being a smart, safe runner. I’m aware of my surroundings. I don’t run listening to music. Some of my friends do, so I suggest keeping one ear free so you can be aware of noise and sound. I tell my route to someone and my expected time to return. And if someone doesn’t have a running group or running partner, a dog is a great form of protection and I carry mace or pepper spray.
Will Run With All Your Hart be an annual race?
We certainly want this race to be an annual event to honor Sarah Roberts Hart!
Virtual runners are asked to register no later than Monday, August 5 to receive their packets prior to the race. Salty readers, let us know if you plan to participate!