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Alaska State Troopers race across state for sick children

Posted: July 16, 2012 - 8:17am
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Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Mark Eldridge of the Soldotna detachment heads north Friday morning on the first leg of the 630-mile Alaska State Trooper Adventure Relay. First-leg runners started at the trooper post on Kalifornsky Beach Road and ran to the Sterling weigh station.  M. Scott Moon
M. Scott Moon
Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Mark Eldridge of the Soldotna detachment heads north Friday morning on the first leg of the 630-mile Alaska State Trooper Adventure Relay. First-leg runners started at the trooper post on Kalifornsky Beach Road and ran to the Sterling weigh station.

The sense of teamwork was palpable.

A 10-strong group from the Fairbanks Police Department stood waiting to supply a racer for each of the 38 legs of the Alaska State Troopers Adventure Relay Friday at the trooper's Soldotna post. 

Emergency personnel from all over the state have kept in steady contact with each other about trail conditions along the 630 miles of the Soldotna to Fairbanks course.

Firefighters from Central Emergency Services showed up to temporarily block traffic for the start of the three-day race.

Six runners, including three from Soldotna, took off from Soldotna to complete the first 12-mile leg of the race.

Kurt Lockwood, of Fairbanks, brought his mountain bike, road bike, kayak, hiking shoes and running shoes along to make sure he'd have every angle of the race covered.

Lockwood, along with several other law enforcement agencies will swim, run, hike and bike from Soldotna to Fairbanks for the third annual relay. The relay shows their support for each other and raises money for children in Alaska with life threatening illnesses. A support convoy of several personal vehicles and RV's will keep pace with racers providing food, water and medical support along the way.

"One thing we have to our advantage is, being Alaska State Troopers, we have troopers everywhere so we kind of know what's happening in different areas," said Terry Vrabec, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. "One of the trails, we're going to have to change it because we have a trail closure because of a bear."

Vrabec said police and fire departments in each city help along the way.
"If something is going on up North we're going to know about it so we'll get to the lead car and change it as we need to," he said.

So far, the race has raised about $37,000 for its charity, Wish Upon the North Star, during the last three years.

This year, 70 runners are hoping to add several thousand dollars to that total.

Lockwood and Robert Thompson, of Fairbanks, said their team met over coffee Thursday to decide which leg of the race each member would like to cover.

"I like the road bike ride over Johnson Pass just leaving town that's just a beautiful ride," he said. "You've got a killer hill climb up to the top from Hope but nothing beats a five mile descent."

Thompson, also a cyclist, said he had originally planned to do all 13 of the road bike legs of the race.

"I realized how many legs there were and yeah, I think I've only dropped one maybe two out of the thing," he said. "I'm signed up for maybe 11."

Thompson said the Fairbanks police team had been growing each year of the race.

"When they first started, it was one of those things that improves morale in the department, supports charities and we're fortunate that we're in a position to take a lot of people from the department at one time and it's a lot of fun," he said.

Sgt. Mark Eldridge, of Soldotna, said he has friends in law enforcement in Glenallen and Anchorage and the three got together and decided to choose which leg of the race to run.

He said the community support for law enforcement didn't surprise him.

"I've been stationed a lot of places in Alaska," he said. "Any place I've ever been, the communities always come around and rally for stuff like this."

He gestured over to the Fairbanks group and said the support was awesome.

"Having them down here is just, that's a big motivator right there," he said. "Those guys do so much of this thing."

Vrabec said the event was growing and organizers hoped to get more police departments to put together small teams.

"Every agency is busy and its hard for manpower, but we're trying," Vrabec said. "Some of these guys take leave just to do this for a couple of days. It's a real positive thing and we want the public to get involved with this. We get so busy doing the official work we don't have the time to do this kind of event."

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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