Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Those Who Do What They Do

I spent the Sunday morning of my extended Labor Day Weekend in the same place this year where I spent it last year. Last September I participated in the Jimmy D 5K for the first time. This year, having enjoyed myself so thoroughly during my maiden effort last year, I returned for my second Jimmy D. And I am glad that I did.

As 5K races go, the Jimmy D is not an easy affair. It is an "out and back" course, which for purposes of this particular race means that the runners start on Joyce Kilmer Avenue immediately adjacent to Memorial Stadium, which is where the football team at New Brunswick High School plays its games. From the starting line the course goes north on Joyce Kilmer Avenue for approximately a mile and a half. At that point, the runners turn around and head back to Memorial Stadium. The turnaround point is significant for the course flips from northbound to southbound in front of the fire house where Deputy Chief D'heron was stationed. And the turnaround point is also the site of the only water stop on the course - manned this year as it was last year by the firefighters who live in and work out of that firehouse. Deputy Chief D'heron's brothers in arms.

Joyce Kilmer Avenue is not a level, flat road. It can fairly be described as undulating. It is not easy on the legs. And given that it is held on September's first Sunday in the Land of Concrete Gardens, it is run under some rather hot and humid conditions, which makes the lone water stop the most valuable piece of real estate on the course. It is - in spite of its relatively short distance - a challenging race. It is not easy. But it is worth doing.

And it is worth doing not simply because it honors a man who lived a life worth honoring. And it is worth doing not simply because a nice brisk run is good for the body and for the soul. It is worth doing because of Troy Powell. Troy Powell is a firefighter for the Montclair Fire Department. He is a fixture at the races that are held throughout New Jersey and New York honoring firemen and first responders. He does not finish first. But then again, he does something in the Jimmy D 5K that I have not seen anyone else do in either year that I have run in the race. FF Powell runs in his full turnout gear.

A firefighter's turnout gear can weigh upwards of sixty pounds. It is something a firefighter wears to increase the likelihood that doing their job does not cost them their life. Wearing it is not fun. It is a necessity. The job demands it.

Running a 5K race does not demand it. Yet, Troy Powell wears it. In three weeks, when a lot of us dress in sleeveless shirts and shorts to complete the Tunnel To Towers, Powell will again be in full gear and will on that date be joined by firefighters from departments near and far dressed in a similar fashion.

It takes a special person to run towards danger when common sense and self-preservation suggest that he or she should join the exodus towards safety. The person who does that is not a person who shies away from a challenge. It is a person such as Troy Powell. The type of person who makes all of us a bit better....

....including those of us - present company most certainly included - who need all of the help in that area that we can get.


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