CAMDEN — Rockland Police Officer John Bagley works fulltime, usually the city’s night shift, a job he loves, because it brings him close to the heartbeat of a community, with all of its human beauty and warts. He is also raising three boys, ages eight, six and one. And, now he is now spending a little more time at Stone Coast Crossfit, in Rockport, training for the second annual Run For Your Life adventure challenge, which takes place May 24 at the Camden Snow Bowl.
“Fire department volunteers are a dying breed — people just don’t volunteer like they used to,” said the 14-year veteran of the Rockland Police Department. “This event raises awareness that public safety needs community involvement.”
In less than a month, adventurous runners will gather at the starting line in front of the lodge at the Camden Snow Bowl, waiting for the start, which will send them bounding up Ragged Mountain to tackle 13 obstacles, including “Blazing Forearms,” “Bucket Brigade,” “Rescue Sandy” and “Highrise Hell.” It’s the second annual emergency service challenge, an adventure race that draws participants from Maine and New England.
Registration is now under way at www.emergencychallenge.org.
Inspired by actual situations encountered by firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers, the Challenge appeals to seasoned triathaletes, as well as novice runners, and runners include local business owners, doctors, high school students, firefighters, police, wardens, and those who just love to run.
But it is more than just another brawny adventure race; the goal of Run For Your Life is to raise awareness of about the role of public safety in communities, its careers and volunteer opportunities. The competition is organized by Emergency Service Challenge, a local group of committed firefighters and paramedics who encourage more citizens to get involved with area fire departments, ambulance services and law enforcement agencies.
On May 24, a number of agencies, including Maine foresters, wardens, state police, Knox County Sheriff’s deputies, marine patrol, Knox County Emergency Management Agency and Regional Communications Center (dispatch) and LifeFlight will be at the Camden Snow Bowl to talk about public service. If weather permits and there are no other emergencies around the state, there may be mission helicopters there as well.
In addition to Bagley, two Camden police officers are now training for Run For Your Life.
“The Chief [Randy Gagne] put out an email about the Challenge, saying ‘we’re not just donut eaters,’” said Camden Police Officer Tim Davis. “I want bragging rights and to compete with the fire department.”
Camden’s Fire Department, which is one of the organizers of the Challenge, shares the same public safety building with the Camden Police Department.
“I like the competition within the department,” said Camden Police Officer Wes Butler. “I just want to be like, ‘Ha! I beat the Chief.’”
Davis and Butler work out consistently through the week, so they are not adjusting their fitness habits dramatically to train for the Run For Your Life.
Davis, who has four children (eight, six, three and a four-month-old baby) also goes to Stone Coast Crossfit in Rockport a minimum of three days a week, arriving there at 6:15 a.m. for a 45-minute workout. He tailors his workout with a program put together by cops, for cops. (See leo-fit.com)
Butler goes the the Penobscot Bay YMCA six days a week, usually around noon, to work on the machines. He is on the overnight shift, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and when he gets off, he runs four to eight miles before going home to bed.
Camden police officers Jeff Boudreau, John Tooley and Allen Weaver, along with Chief Gagne, are also expected to run the Challenge.
But, Camden will have some stiff competition from Rockland Police Office Bagley, who participates in conventional running and bicycling races.
“I feel stronger now than I was in my 20s,” he said.
He is currently training for Run For Your Life, and a Spartan race, a warrior obstacle dash that will take place in November at Fenway Park in Boston.
“Run For Your Life is my first obstacle mud-race,” said Bagley, who participated in a GORUCK challenge a few weeks ago. GORUCK is teambuilding event, born in the military, and involves rucking — moving with a rucksack, with action, energy and purpose. In the GORUCK, participants place six bricks in a backpack, heave it over their shoulders and then do push-ups, log carries, and swim.
Bagley also rides in the Police Unity Tour, an annual event that raises awareness of police who have died in the line of duty.
The ride starts in New Jersey and ends in Washington, D.C., accomplished in 80-mile daily stints.
“Put me on a bike, and I can bike all day,” said Bagley.
These days, he is running, rowing and lifting weights. He is not all that fond of running, so for the Run For Your Life, “I’ll probably up my running a little bit more.”
Diminishing volunteerism has affected fire departments across the country, mostly in rural areas where communities rely heavily on volunteer firefighters. The declining rate of volunteerism began in the early 1980s. As firefighters age out, there has been a corresponding lower number of younger men and women stepping up to take their places.
“There’s not that call to duty, to service,” said Bagley. “But it is important to serve your community, your country.”
People assume “somebody else is going to take care of it, but nobody signs up to do it,” he said. “Society is very me, me, me.”
Emergency Service Challenge intends to reverse that trend, and is actively recruiting a new generation of volunteers and career first responders.
Butler and Davis are issuing a challenge to other police departments to run in the Challenge.
“And the sheriff’s department,” said Butler.
“It’s good for the community to see us out of uniform, having a good time, and getting dirty,” said Davis. “It brings a lot of other people, and is good for the community as a whole.”
Sponsors of the 2014 Run For Your Life challenge include Pen Bay Healthcare, Allen Agency, Apartments on Elm, Rankin’s Hardware, Penobscot Bay Pilot and the Maine Lobster Festival. The Emergency Service Challenge welcomes volunteers to help stage the event and sponsor on a variety of levels. To learn more, and to get involved, visit the Challenge website, http://www.emergencychallenge.org/; friend them on Facebook; email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 207-236-7950.
Sign up now; registration is limited.