Several officers of the Arkansas City Police Department participated April 8 in the Thin Blue Line 5K in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The “thin blue line” is an internationally recognized symbol that commemorates fallen and shows support for living law enforcement officers, as well as symbolizes the relationship of law enforcement officers to the community as the protectors of fellow civilians from criminal elements.
Those who participated in the race were Lt. Eric Burr, Corey Combs, Sgt. Eric Mata, Matt Mayo, Ted Shinneman and Sgt. Jason Legleiter.
Burr finished 28th overall and first in his age group. Combs finished 41st overall and second in his age group.
Mata finished 55th overall, while Mayo was 107th and Shinneman 164th. There were 401 total runners in the 5K race.
The 5K is an annual run-walk benefiting the Oklahoma Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (OKCOPS).
Reasons for racing
Mayo, who has been with ACPD since last September, said he chose to participate for multiple reasons, including the good cause that benefits from the proceeds. “It was good to try and help me get into better shape, and also as an activity to do with fellow officers,” he said.
“I was strongly encouraged or talked into participating by Sergeant Legleiter,” Burr said.
“I do not normally run races — in fact, this is only my second 5K race. I would not have gone on my own but for the encouragement from … Legleiter, and knowing that the rest of the crew from Ark City PD and Stacey Allen from Cowley County Sheriff’s (Office) were going.”
Allen finished 40th overall and first in the age group.
Preparing for 5K
Preparations for the 5K were different for each of the officers, since some are avid runners and some are not.
“I fall into the category of the ‘not,’” Mayo said. “I went out once and just tried to run 3 miles. (I was) wishing after the race that I would have done more to train for it.”
“It was great to go as a group and to run this particular race because it was predominantly law enforcement officers and their families,” Burr said.
“I thought everyone in our group did a great job, all finishing in the top half of the race.”
Burr’s experience in the 5K was encouraging, thanks to a fellow officer.
“The people there were great!” he said. “With about a half-mile left in the race, I was slowing down because I had pushed pretty hard to that point and a guy I had passed a while before came up behind me, and patted me on the back and said, ‘Let’s go!’ I was able to finish strong.”
After the race, Burr found the officer and thanked him for the encouragement he was given. “(I) learned that he works as an officer with the Norman, Oklahoma, Police Department,” Burr said.
The camaraderie was not limited to experiences with officers from other departments, either.
“It’s always nice to do things with coworkers,” Mayo said. “We have a great group of officers at the department, and it’s great to get out and do things together just for fun. We all went and had lunch afterwards.”
The physical aspect of the jobs ACPD performs for the citizens of Arkansas City is not taken lightly by employees of the department.
“Physical fitness is such an important aspect to our jobs as law enforcement officers,” Burr said. “I personally believe that citizens should be able to count on me to be at my very best every day.”
“Pushing myself physically through training helps me be ready for what we might encounter in our line of work,” Burr added.
“As the oldest of the group that attended the race, I also have pride in keeping myself in a condition that will allow me to someday enjoy my years of retirement, which really isn’t that far away.”
Burr and Mayo also offered some tips for those who are interested in participating in competitive — or fun — runs.
“Start slow by just getting out and walking — at least 30 minutes should be the target,” Burr advised. “Slowly start adding a jog in intervals — walk three blocks, jog one block. Over time, continue to add more jogging and less walking.”
“Listen to your body — if you have aches and pains, it is best to rest,” he added. “In no time, a person will be running the entire time. It does take a commitment of time to stay on track. There will be setbacks, but having a positive take-charge attitude will help push through adversities.
“Before long, you will feel compelled to get out and run, if for no other reason than stress relief, or to run longer or faster than you did the time before. I run by myself, but I have talked with others who find it much easier to run with a partner.”
Officer Mayo also suggested using the buddy system when running.
“I’d say the biggest part would be getting a group together just to motivate you. I would probably not have done this alone. But with a group, it makes it a really fun experience,” he said.