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Officers plan to go the distance – in uniform – at half marathon

From 2016: Cops talk about running in full uniform

Ahead of the 2016 Peace Officer Memorial Run in Modesto, Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge, Turlock police Sgt. Neil Cervenka (now a lieutenant) and Stanislaus sheriff’s Capt. Jim Gordon trained and talked.
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Ahead of the 2016 Peace Officer Memorial Run in Modesto, Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge, Turlock police Sgt. Neil Cervenka (now a lieutenant) and Stanislaus sheriff’s Capt. Jim Gordon trained and talked.

In a sea of athletic wear at the Peace Officer Memorial Run in Modesto in September, three men should be easy to spot.

Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge, Turlock police Sgt. Neil Cervenka and Stanislaus sheriff’s Capt. Jim Gordon will run the half marathon in full uniform – boots, vest, duty belt, weapon and all. They’ll also carry a U.S. flag in black and white with a blue stripe to honor fallen officers.

On Friday morning, the running buddies – they’ve done the 120-mile Baker to Vegas relay together – gathered at the Modesto Junior College track for their first full-uniform training run together. They did a mile on the track, then Cervenka and Dodge ventured out onto the Virginia Corridor trail.

Cervenka already has run a 5K in full uniform and 8 miles in boots, while Dodge has run 10 miles wearing his vest and 5 miles in his boots. Gordon, though he’s run a couple of marathons and several half marathons, stuck to the mile on the rubberized track. “I’m a little nervous because I’m generally used to running in typical jogging gear,” he said before Friday’s run. “This is a whole different dynamic,” he added, referring to the nonbreathable uniform material, the boots, vest and belt.

This is also to motivate others. The three of us are firm believers in physical fitness and how it increases and enhances your life. The idea is if we can run 13 miles in full uniform, they can get out and do a 5K in regular clothes.

Sgt. Neil Cervenka, Turlock Police Department

On why he chose to run the half marathon in uniform, Gordon deadpanned, “Sean is incredibly persistent.”

He added, “It’s good for us, it’s good for the profession, it’s good for the community to see we’re out there supporting law enforcement and trying to raise awareness for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

In addition to increasing awareness, the men are raising money for a Peace Officer Memorial Group of Stanislaus County fund. They have pages set up on the YouCaring crowdfunding website. As of Monday morning, Dodge had raised nearly $5,700 toward his $7,500 goal, Cervenka had over $1,800 pledged toward his $5,000 goal and Gordon had $875 toward his $2,500 goal. “They’ve set aside a special fund to raise money for families of officers who died in the line of duty,” Dodge said.

None of the three is fooling himself into believing the run will be easy or comfortable. Though it was cold and rainy when Cervenka ran his full-uniform 5K, he was hot when he finished, he recalled. “There’s not a whole lot of technology in uniforms,” he said. “... The vest holds in a lot of your core heat – it doesn’t breathe at all.”

Boots, on the other hand, are getting better, Cervenka said. “Manufacturers have begun to incorporate a lot of running-style shoe into duty boots because we do have to run so much.”

Our goal is to run together. We’re not going to leave anybody behind.

Detective Sean Dodge, Modesto Police Department, on whether he, Gordon and Cervenka would be competing against one another in the half marathon

No matter how the half marathon goes, “this is only a few hours of discomfort for us,” the sergeant said. The families of officers killed in the line of duty “have endured a lifetime of pain,” he said.

Dodge, who is on a quest to run a marathon in every state and finished his 12th last weekend, said he was inspired to run the upcoming half marathon in uniform after seeing a Folsom police officer do so at the full California International Marathon in Sacramento.

“I’m pretty confident I can do 13,” he said. “It’s gonna hurt, but the purpose of this isn’t to feel good, it’s to make that statement. To let law enforcement know, first of all, that our community loves and supports us, but at the same time let the community know law enforcement is out there doing this stuff and we love our community we live in.”

If Dodge finds his confidence flagging during September’s run, he’ll likely think of his secret weapon: the Superman shirt beneath his uniform. He flashed the shirt Clark Kent-style at the MJC track Friday.

“Really, Sean?” Gordon said, smiling. To Cervenka, he added, “He had to show us up.”

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

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