YORK, Maine — Last May, Charlie Black ran in Boston’s Run to Remember, an annual road race in honor of Massachusetts police officers killed in the line of duty. Surrounded by thousands of fellow runners, the thought crossed his mind more than once, “I’d like to think they’re running for my dad.”
Black is named for his father, Maine Police Trooper Charles Black, who was killed in the line of duty responding to a bank robbery in South Berwick in July 1964, just weeks before his son was born. It’s a legacy, Black said, that still affects him, and he knows it contributed to the suicide death of his brother Bill 40 years later.
As he left Boston that May afternoon, he said, “I remember thinking, ‘This is really great. We need something like this in Maine.’”
He was sure there had to be some memorial race to honor Maine’s fallen officers, but he did not find one.
And so the Southern Maine Thin Blue Line 5K was created. It’s the hope of Black and a small group of people helping him that when the race starts in front of the York police station on Oct. 24, officers from across Maine will be on hand to remember his father and 85 others from the state killed in the line of duty.
Black said that growing up in York — as one of three sons whose mother, Mary Andrews, is current Board of Selectmen chair — his father’s death “wasn’t something we talked about that much. I never realized how much the loss of my dad affected me until I became an adult. I’m still processing it 50 years later.”
He said the time when his thoughts turn to his father most often is when he’s running. “I’ve read all the articles about him, and I’ve heard he was one of the good guys. He’d give you the benefit of the doubt; he wasn’t a power-hungry cop. And for years, the time I felt most connected to him is when I was out running. I feel like I got to know him better.”
In these past months as he has been planning for the race, “I feel closer to him now than ever.”
Black is working with York runner Laurie Gaudreau, an Ironman competitor and marathon runner; his wife Stephanie, Karen Hosmer of York; and Dave and Leslie Rowland, co-owners of SoMe Brewing Co., which is where most of the group met and has become the venue for their planning meetings.
The group has plotted the course, obtained buy-in from a variety of York town departments (including police and public works) and secured a permit from selectmen. Most important has been finding a nonprofit that would act as fiscal agent to collect and disburse fees — and the York Police Association has stepped forward.
“Without them, we really couldn’t do this,” said Black.
Gaudreau, who has been running competitively for years, helped select the course, which starts at the police station, goes down Main Street to Shore Road, over the Cape Neddick Bridge to River Road, to Clark Road, to Cape Neddick Road and back onto Main Street — ending at Chase’s Field behind the former Chase’s Garage.
“As soon as Charlie shared his story, I knew I wanted to become involved,” said Gaudreau.
The group is reaching out in every way they can think of to spread the word to police departments across the state — particularly to those who lost someone in the line of duty. They are hoping for a blockbuster first year, with as many as 500 runners, maybe getting neighboring towns’ officers to enter into a friendly competition to spur interest.
All money raised will go toward two organizations that help families struggling with the tragedies. The New England chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors provides support, scholarships and children’s camps for families of officers killed in the line of duty. Camp Kita in Maine is a summer camp for children who have lost a loved one to suicide.
As the date of the race draws nearer, Black said, he looks forward to what he anticipates is going to be a deeply moving day.
“I think it’s going to be cathartic,” said Black. “It’s hard to put into words. But when I see all those people running, remembering, paying respects to my dad and all the fallen officers in Maine, it’s like they’re not forgotten and never will be.”