Bill Dennison has been managing road races in Northeast Ohio for years.
The one he and the rest of the Greater Cleveland XC team has created is pretty important for the longtime cross country and track coach at Mentor High School.
On Sept. 13, the inaugural First Responder 5K will be run. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. in front of the Mentor Police Department, and will end in the same spot.
Dennison said the reason the race was created was to honor not just Mentor police officers, but other first responders throughout the area. The timing is appropriate, said Dennison.
“All the negativity that’s out there with law enforcement … I think we’re very fortunate to have great law enforcement in this area,” he said. “This is nothing more than just a way to say thank you to all of them. A way to honor them.”
Recent shootings of African-Americans by police officers across the United States have sparked nationwide protests and amplified the Black Lives Matter movement. Some protests have turned violent and resulted in businesses and other properties being burned or looted.
“This is our quiet way of saying not all police officers, the state highway patrol are bad, and that we appreciate them,” said Dennison.
The course is similar to “Friday Night Lights,” which has become a summer tradition near Mentor High School, a short walk to the Mentor Police Department.
“It loops around the civic center. A lot of bike paths. It will be flat and fast,” said Dennison. “It’s basically Friday Night Lights in reverse.”
The 5K is open to anyone, but Dennison is hopeful as many police officers, firefighters and paramedics as possible run the race or participate in some fashion.
“I know we already have (some first responders) signed up,” said Dennison.
The number of runners for the 5K will be capped at 500, and all novel coronavirus guidelines for race day will be enforced. About 200 have already registered as of last week.
Race packet pickups are Sept. 11 at Second Sole Mentor from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the day of the race near the Mentor Police Station from 7 to 8:15 a.m.
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