STRATFORD, Conn. — Stratford's Zofia Wieciorkowska took up running as a pre-teen and, 40 years later, she’s still at it.
Why? “Because I like to win!” the smiling 52-year-old said, shortly after crossing the finish line at the Vicki Soto 5K on Saturday.
And win she did, coming in at 20 minute, 15 seconds to best a large field of women in the popular annual race that honors a slain Sandy Hook teacher. And if you think she looks familiar, it might be because she also won the first Vicki Soto 5K in 2013.
What happened last year?
“I was not able to be here last year,” said the Stratford mother of two.
Wieciorkowska’s racing career began when she was a child and continued throughout her college years in Olsztyn, Poland. She’s run everything from track and field events — she represented Poland in the 800-meter at the World Championships in 1987 — to marathons.
From 1995 to 2000, she ran in six New York City marathons, coming in 10th to 15th among all women, not just those in her age group.
“Now I do more shorter things, but I still do it,” said Wieciorkowska, who moved to the United States about 20 years ago.
“My career is so big,” she said. “I’ve raced everywhere — California, Budapest, Lyon, France. I traveled so much.”
She said running is a great sport but said it requires a lot of physical and mental stamina.
“It’s very nice, but it’s very hard,” Wieciorkowska said. “You have to have a lot of dedication. You have to be strong.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a support system. At Saturday’s race, Wieciorkowska’s husband, Andrzej, her 23-year-old daughter, Anna, and her 13-year-old son, Andrzej, were on hand to cheer her on.
Both Wieciorkowska and her husband work for the Polish newspaper Polonia, and Andrzej brought along a camera to capture the happy moment.
The runner said she knew she had to participate in the event when she heard it was planned in Soto’s memory and that funds raised go to scholarships for aspiring teachers.
“She was very dedicated to children, Vicki,” she said. “I didn’t know her and I am almost double her age, but it is an honor to race for her.”