Her parents thought she was crazy.
“I wasn’t sure if they took me seriously at first,” said Sarah Emoto ’11 about her decision to run across the United States.
But ten pairs of Nike running shoes, 14 states and more than 3,000
miles later, people across the nation have taken Sarah’s journey
seriously, admiring her tenacity and determination to
honor those who serve.
Sarah, a 22-year-old history major, wasn’t quite ready for “real
life” after commencement in May 2011, so she decided to go on to
something else—a cross-country run.
Dad Mark Emoto, retired San Bernardino Police Department lieutenant
and former interim director of Public Safety at the University, said “it
wasn’t a total surprise.” He retired to accompany her.
“Sarah has been running since she was seven, when she ran her first
5K run, and at 14 she ran her first marathon,” he said. “She has run 11
marathons and in April 2011, she ran a 50-mile ultra-marathon.“
Though Sarah knew she wanted to run, it was a message in a high
school graduation card from Matthew Bennie, her English teacher at
Redlands Adventist Academy, that helped her define why. She wrote about
it in her blog, “Chasing Asphalt,” where she chronicled her four-month
“He said, ‘Let God direct your path … especially if it directs you
across this great country.’ He’s right, I don’t just get to run across
any country, I get to run across this great country, the United States
“My run across America is going to be dedicated to the brave men and
women who selflessly serve our country: the law enforcement officers,
members of the Armed Forces, and firefighters who sacrifice themselves
for something they believe to be greater than themselves.”
On July 24, Sarah walked down to the water at Huntington Beach—her
mom, Cheryl, said the run wouldn’t count if she didn’t touch water on
both ends of the trek—and then began to run.
After her first 100 miles, she blogged that she was on a “runner’s
high.” That high, she said, only lasted until about Kansas. She was
“riding an emotional rollercoaster” with “bursts of euphoric highs,
complete meltdowns, melancholy numbness and everything in between.”
“In the beginning, it was the physical challenge, the daily thrashing
of my body,” Sarah said. “The latter half, it became a mental
challenge. Not because I questioned whether I would finish, but it had
always been about pushing myself as hard as I could, and that took its
toll on me mentally. What kept me going was knowing that not finishing,
or not giving it everything I had, weren’t options.”
“The last two and a half months she was running 30 to 40 miles a day,
seven days a week and took no days off,” her father said. “To put that
into perspective, a marathon is 26.2 miles, she was running the
equivalent of nine to ten marathons per week.”
Sarah blogged about how she kept her mind busy—counting road kill,
finding shapes in the cracks on the asphalt and playing the license
plate alphabet game. She was also amused by the items she found along
the road—a Smurf and seven left shoes among them.
She was encouraged and motivated by the people who ran with her,
including short sprints with her mom and grandparents, and the people
she met, including New York Police Department retired Det. Luis Alicea,
who was a 9/11 responder.
Sarah blogged, “I was so inspired by him that even though I’d run
20-plus miles that morning, I almost felt obligated to go right back out
and run more that day. I felt like I owed it to him to just run until I
Some people drove for hours to run with Sarah and others took time
off work. Marine Staff Sgt. Seth Lewis ran with her for two days through
Twentynine Palms, California in 100-plus degree weather, just before he
was deployed to Afghanistan.
“He was a constant source of inspiration for me. He called me [from
Afghanistan] the day before I reached New York, to encourage me and
congratulate me on finishing,” Sarah said.
In Colorado, University alumus Dr. Jon McMillan ‘61 stopped along the
road to say hello, and they shouted the Och Tamale together. Sarah also
visited the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home. Marty Schlink, who
works there as a nursing home administrator, became emotional when she
spoke of it.
“Mark let us know that Sarah would be running through. We had about
50 staff and veterans—some standing, some in wheelchairs and some on
gurneys,” Schlink said. “It was one of the highlights of my year,
meeting Sarah and seeing how what she was doing impacted the spirit of
On Dec. 3, Sarah plunged her feet into the icy water of the Hudson
River—mission accomplished! She blogged she was unable to put her
feelings into words. More than a month later, she said she still isn’t
sure what this will mean to her life.
“I know everyone else sees it as a life-changing accomplishment and
success, but right now, to me, it is more of a swirling episode of chaos
in my life painfully laid out over 3,000 miles, and I have not yet been
able to analyze it to my own satisfaction.”
Sarah said her experience at the University impacted her journey.
“I will say that if I had not gone to Redlands, I probably wouldn’t
have embarked on this journey at all,” she said. “I was taught to be an
independent thinker, and as an extension of that, an independent member
of society who doesn’t necessarily conform to what is expected of me…
and to some degree, that is something that was developed at Redlands at
an academic and intellectual level.”