St. Paul firefighters to run Twin Cities Marathon in gear to raise awareness

St. Paul firefighters to run Twin Cities Marathon in gear to raise awareness

St. Paul firefighters to run Twin Cities Marathon in gear to raise awareness

Thousands of runners will compete in the Twin Cities Marathon on Sunday, including two firefighters. They are tackling the challenge in honor of those they’ve lost.

“This will be a test to our limits,” said Bryan Buxton, a St. Paul Fire Department firefighter.

He and Captain Kyle Bode plan to wear their turnout gear, including a helmet and tank.

“We have to draw some attention to ourselves,” said Bode. “It’s a bold enough move that people might notice.”

The race was Bode’s idea and born out of frustration after losing fellow Captain Chris Parsons in June.

Parsons, 48, suffered a major medical event after a shift. A long-time member of the St. Paul Fire Department, he was known for his work advocating for change at the Capitol to improve protections for firefighters.

“I guess I was just kind of fed up, we’ve had five line of duty deaths in the past eight years,” said Bode. “I thought, ‘How can we raise some attention to how many people we’ve lost?’”

When he approached Buxton with the bold idea, his colleague responded ‘yes’ immediately.

Their goal is to use the 26.2-mile race to bring attention to the major health issues facing firefighters.

“We’ve had two cardiac-related line of duty deaths, and we’ve had two suicide deaths, and we’ve had one cancer death,” explained Bode. “It’s something that we can’t ignore and I don’t want it to ever happen again.”

They hope with every step, they’ll start a conversation that can reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and raise money to cover advanced cardiac and cancer screenings for firefighters.

It will be Buxton’s first official marathon. Bode has run the marathon seven times.

“Bryan is no quit,” said Bode. “I’ve never seen him quit anything.”

Buxton responded, “Kyle is a people’s firefighter… When you’re looking for someone better to push you, there’s no one better.”

The heat will be a challenge. Twin Cities Marathon weekend races are expected to be run under the potentially dangerous EAS Red Flag Conditions. The next highest level is black, which would result in a cancellation.

Buxton and Bode are both paramedics and plan to monitor each other during the race. They also have a plan mapped out to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes.

“Because of the temperature, we’re going to lose the pants probably after a few miles and then probably finish with the pants as well,” explained Bode.

During the difficult moments, they’ll be motivated by each other and the memories of those they’ve lost.

“Running through the city, running through our crews, our people, will help,” said Buxton. “We’re excited.”

He added, “As we say in the fire service — two in, two out. We’re going to do this together.”

Click here to learn more about how the St. Paul Fire Foundation promotes the health and safety of St. Paul firefighters.

St. Paul firefighters raising awareness for firefighter wellness

St. Paul firefighters raising awareness for firefighter wellness