Baltimore County Police officers, relatives and friends created a slight traffic jam earlier today on Joppa Road while running three miles in the 27th annual Law Enforcement Relay for Special Olympics to the Public Safety Building in Towson.
Clad in red, around 50 runners were celebrating the next-to-last leg of the ‘Flame of Hope’ torch, which has been involved in journeys around the state and will open the Maryland Special Olympics Games at Towson University on Friday.
About 50 runners shared the torch in the event that began at Harford Hills Elementary School.
The final tough uphill section to the finish line was easier for some runners, such as Lisa Kessler, who carried the torch at the end for the second year in a row.
“It felt really good to be an athlete, like a real Olympian,” said Kessler, a Parkville resident.
The 2005 Parkville High graduate was running for the fourth year with her mom, Carol Allen, who works for the Baltimore County Police Department.
She wasn’t the only one making it a family affair.
Scott Fischer, 34, of Manchester, supported his older brother, Lt. Wes Fischer, 36, who organized the run for his third straight year.
“My brother runs it, but it’s for Special Olympics — a great cause,” he said. “The athletes love it and it and it makes them really proud so it feels good to help them out.”
Scott acknowledge the last final climb is more difficult than expected.
“It’s surprising because I drive this way all the time and you don’t realize how steep that hill is until you are running it.”
A white police bus followed the runners and picked up those who needed a water break or couldn’t complete the course, but Scott wanted no part of that.
“I ran the whole time,” he said. “My pride wouldn’t let me get on the bus.”
The smells of Gino Giant burgers and Hooters hot wings, couldn’t drive his older brother off course either.
“It smells so good,” said Wes, who works in Towson and is in his 17th year in the Baltimore County Police Department.
The runners and volunteer helpers instead enjoyed a post-run spread that included pizza, hot dogs and refreshments.
“It’s a lot of fun every year and every year we get more and more participation,” said Wes, who isn’t intimidated by the final hill. “It’s tough, but it’s also fun because you get to the end and you know it’s done and it’s like, ‘Whoa. The headquarters are in sight.’”
The runners also form a pack near the finish so no one is left behind.
“We kind of stop just before the end so everyone can form up together and we all run in together."
On Friday, at 5:30 p.m., the final, shorter leg of the torch relay run begins in lots 13 and 14 and will conclude at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, where the official flame will be lit to open the games.
“Tomorrow is the big day. All the recruits will form up and run in it for the Special Olympics,” Wes said.
Chuck Mohr, 47, who retired from the Baltimore County Police Department after 21 years and now works for the Towson University Police Department will be there running for the second day in a row — and he’ll bring along his four sons.
The shorter distance and opening celebration will be welcome relief after today’s journey, which Mohr said “gets a little tougher the older you get.”