CAMDEN, Maine — Those who take part in this weekend’s Run For Your Life obstacle course race will have the chance to swing over a stream on ropes, jump over fire, swim through the waters of a chilly Maine pond and crawl 15 meters under barbed wire with smoke pouring over their heads.
And somewhere during the rugged competition on Ragged Mountain in Camden, organizers hope they will be inspired to become a first responder, someone who embraces tough challenges in the course of their volunteer or career work.
These brave folks who respond to medical emergencies are crucial to the safety and well-being of many Mainers, but the rate of volunteerism has been declining for 30 years, said Chief Chris Farley of the Camden Fire Department.
“In Camden, there are three career firefighting positions, and we have 36 part-time employees of the department. The three of us can’t do our job without the part-time employees. They are the department,” he said Tuesday. “We’re trying to come up with something that would do two things; highlight the need, and get the community to see the organizations looking for volunteers.”
The inspiration for the race was inspired by an article last spring in the BDN on the problems towns face recruiting volunteers firefighters. The scarcity, not limited to fire departments, affects other emergency medical services too, he said.
“It generated some dialogue on Facebook,’” Farley said. “I said, ‘Let’s not rant about it. Let’s get together and do something.’”
That something evolved into the Run For Your Life race, organized by the Camden and Hope Fire Departments and Camden First Aid.
Officials want to decrease the average age of emergency responders by 10 years, and increase recruiting by 25 percent across all services. They want to provide a fun event for the community and improve relationships between area emergency service organizations.
“It’s mostly a chance for us to be out in the community and interact with people,” Farley said of the Saturday morning event, which is attracting participants from around the state and across New England.
So far, 75 people have registered, including Kris MacCabe of the Maine Warden Service, who appears on the popular reality show North Woods Law.
Though the course is challenging, a good effort counts for a lot, said Farley.
“We’re not just looking for young people,” he said. “We want anybody who’s willing to be engaged, who has physical fitness, with willingness to be part of a team.”
Registration for the Run For Your Life 5K obstacle course race, which costs $50 per person, begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 25 at the lodge at the Camden Snow Bowl, with three waves of runners starting after that. For more information or to pre-register, contact Camden Fire Chief Chris Farley at 236-7950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.