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Columbus Fire Department will be well represented at Saturday’s Mill Race Marathon as 10 firefighters will be trading in their heavy overcoats, helmets and boots to see the city by foot.
Most have signed up for the 13.1-mile half-marathon.
At least one will run in the 5-kilometer race.
The endurance race shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for most of the men, who range in ages from 23 to 49. After all, being physically fit is critical to their jobs.
Their daily work often entails lugging heavy equipment and water-filled hoses or helping lift or rescue victims of all sizes.
The city fire stations all have places for the firefighters to work out with free weights and elliptical trainers or treadmills when they’re not responding to emergencies.
Seconds count in firefighting, so they often run — just not 13.1 miles at a stretch.
Lt. Mark Ziegler helped encourage a group to take part in the local marathon. A former college football player, he competed this summer in the United States Police and Fire Championships in San Diego, winning six gold medals in sprint, hurdle and long jump events.
Ziegler said he and firefighter Dan Smith had been talking for a year about getting a group of guys together to run just for the fun of it.
“We’ve got really a broad range of guys and ages, and many of their wives are running — and their kids, too,” Ziegler said.
Some of the firefighters’ children will be participating in Friday’s Kids Fun Run at Mill Race Park. Older ones will participate in Saturday’s 5-kilometer event.
Although the firefighters will start as a group Saturday, they have not been able to train together given their varied work schedules and working at different fire stations throughout the city.
Many of them were not regular runners before starting their half-marathon training, but they were athletes in other ways. They include former football players and wrestlers, a personal trainer and some who take part in obstacle course competitions.
Their confidence has been building as the race draws near. Jim Miller said he ran 12 miles one day last week, so feels ready for the 13.1-mile race.
Training sometimes is hit or miss for Miller with his busy work schedule and wanting to make time for his family. Firefighters often work a schedule of 24 hours on and
48 hours off.
“You just have to clear time on your schedule to exercise,” said Miller, a 16-year firefighter who runs on the People Trails near his home.
Allen Smith has spent the past three years helping motivate others to exercise after an appearance on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” television show.
“In our job you have to be fit,” Smith said. “You’re talking about somebody’s life depending on it.”
Smith said he has run many 5-kilometer races and two half-marathons and also competes in running/obstacle course competitions, as does fellow firefighter Ben Noblitt.
A wrestler who competed in the state high school wrestling competition in 2002, Noblitt also likes making exercise a family activity with his three children.
Running is a passion for four-year firefighter Dan Smith, who already has competed in one full marathon and three half-marathons.
Other firefighters have come to Dan Smith with more running questions in recent days, including asking about how to pace themselves and if they should think about a combination of running and walking.
Jarrad Mullis is one of those firefighters with questions because he is the newest to running and the fire department, having been hired just three months ago.
“Running is a totally different exercise for me,” said Mullis, who played football at Columbus North. “I just want to compete and see if I can do it.”
Ziegler hopes marathon day will be a good experience for all the firefighters — good exercise, camaraderie among their peers and learning that they can accomplish a goal.
And right before they get to the finish line, they will be running past a familiar place: Fire Station 1 on Washington Street.
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