By Mary O’KEEFE
Glendale police and Los Angeles County sheriff personnel from Crescenta Valley and Altadena stations will be joining hundreds of other law enforcement agencies this weekend for a race that will begin in Baker, run through Death Valley and end in Las Vegas.
The Annual Challenge Cup/Baker to Vegas Relay is a 120-mile relay race. There are 20 legs that range from a little over six miles to over 10 miles.
Glendale Police Lt. Tim Feeley is captain of the GPD team and has been part of Baker to Vegas for 22 years. The GPD team has 20 runners with four alternates.
“This means more than just a race, it is a huge event for our agency,” Feeley said.
Runners train throughout the year for the race and that is where their camaraderie begins; but when they actually run the race, it extends beyond their own agencies to become something more.
“Agencies from all over the world compete,” Feeley said.
Law enforcement agencies from throughout the United States compete alongside officers from foreign countries including Germany, Wales and Canada.
“It is a very positive experience,” Feeley said. “Over the years we have competed in 109 degrees [Fahrenheit] temperatures and [extreme] cold. It was canceled one year due to the snow, and then there are winds.”
The 120 miles cover a variety of elevations as well as all types of weather. This year the temperature is predicted to range from the high 90s degree Fahrenheit to the low 60s.
“Last weekend would have been great [weather-wise],” Feeley said.
He added there had been some talk about moving the relay to an earlier date but that had not been done yet.
But whether it’s rain, wind, snow or whatever Mother Nature has to throw at the participants, they will run.
“When you run through Death Valley, you really don’t notice anything,” he said. “There is nothing out there. If you get the shade of a Joshua tree you are lucky.”
The relay was started by Chuck Foote and Larry Moore as a way for officers to maintain physical fitness and build camaraderie with fellow officers. When it began about 30 years ago it included two agencies, Los Angeles Police Department and L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. Now the relay includes over 260 teams including FBI and the U.S. Secret Service.
“This growth is what I thought would happen. Over the years it slowly grew [as the word spread] from one cop to another,” Foote said in an earlier interview with the CVW.
“One of the neat things about [the relay] is you have brand new officers running within our agency,” he said. “There are no ranks; we are all equal.”
But one of the runners this year for GPD will be their chief – Robert Castro will join the relay.
“This is the first year our chief will run with us,” Feeley said. “He is a veteran of the race.”
Castro became Glendale chief of police in 2013. Prior to coming to Glendale, he was the chief in Glendora and had participated in Baker to Vegas with that department. Feeley said to have Castro run builds up the department’s morale and is meaningful to those the runners.
Crescenta Valley and Altadena sheriff’s stations will be running alongside Glendale and other law enforcement agencies.
“This is my third year,” said Richard Engersbach, law enforcement technician at the CV Sheriff’s Station and captain of this year’s team. The CV and Altadena teams have 20 runners combined with two alternates.
Engersbach said he knows it will be hot but the runners are prepared.
“Everyone on the team has [participated] before,” he said. “It is really hot but our runners know they need to hydrate and be prepared. … Once you get past the seventh leg it cools off.”
Engersbach said he too likes the camaraderie and especially likes the fact that those assigned to CV station work with the Altadena station.
“I like the way [the relay] makes us work together with Altadena. It takes a lot of work but it brings people together,” he added.
He also likes that the race has expanded over the years to other countries.
“It has gotten bigger with more and more international teams. It is great to see runners who have flags from their country on their [pace] vans. … The organizers have really done a great job in setting up the race.”
The GPD team is one of the faster teams that compete. Their starting time will be at 4 p.m. on Saturday. CV and Altadena stations will begin at 10 a.m. Engersbach’s goal this year is to bring home a ceremonial mug.
In addition to the runners, each team provides volunteers who act as support in a variety of jobs from driving to organizational support.
For more information on the relay, visit bakervegas.net.