Chicago Police Officer Runs Marathon in Full Tactical Gear, Raises Money for the Chicago Police Memorial Fund

October 29, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Dean Tattooles
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October 8th marked the 43rd year of the Chicago Marathon, with a course winding through the streets of the Windy City, hosting 47,000 participants, which set an all-time record for registrants of the event. One man, amongst the sea of runners, was Chicago Police Officer James Mendoza, who ran the entire length of the race, 26.2 miles, in 30 pounds of tactical gear. 

Some background: As a veteran of the US Navy, Mendoza has been an officer of the Chicago Police Department for eight years. He says that after serving his country in the Navy, it was an organic and natural transition to continue serving, by protecting and representing his hometown of Chicago. As an avid runner and CrossFitter, he admits that with a very challenging and demanding schedule, Mendoza had to force training sessions in between shifts and at odd hours. 

While he belongs to multiple gyms, he trains mostly on his own, completing Hero WODs at the police station. He trains with body armor on a regular basis and it dawned on him recently that while running a full marathon in tactical gear would seem outlandish and unattainable for some, it was quite possible for him. 

  • “I train a lot like this, I do a lot of CrossFit, and I run …I’m always in my tactical gear, so I wanted to do this, and I knew I could,” said Mendoza. 
  • “Let me tell you, there’s no way I could have done this without CrossFit. CrossFit is what prepared me for this more than anything,” Mendoza continued. 

His inspiration: While Mendoza looked at the marathon as a personal challenge, there was larger motivation at play. The Chicago Police Memorial Fund is one that gives aid to families of first responders and officers that have died or been injured in the line of duty. While Mendoza was the only one in uniform and tactical gear, he was joined by 80 other individuals running to raise money and awareness for the foundation, which in turn led to $160,000 donated for the nonprofit. 

Race day: At the start of the race, Mendoza was full of emotion and excitement. He was anxious to test his training, to see if he had sufficiently prepared physically as well as mentally. 

  • “I had so many emotions going through my head. I was so excited and it just meant so much to me that I was able to honor (the Chicago Police Memorial Fund) by doing this.” said Mendoza. 

As the race carried on, Mendoza reached a dark place, where he forced himself to soldier on and push forward, despite major discomfort and minor discouragement.

  • “The first 13 miles were great, but the second half… my feet started hurting so bad at mile 22. It was so painful. I just felt… numb. I just stopped feeling… I had to in order to finish. I thought, I just have to finish this. I’m not here for me. I’m here to honor someone else.
  • “I just went into the zone. I forgot I was in pain. The crowd was amazing, and my family helped so much. They were a huge motivation for me and they ran the last mile with me. It meant so much that they were there.” 

When asked if he would tackle something like this again, the avid runner agreed that he would love to run another marathon or perhaps participate in a triathlon, sans the added weight. Although that’s not completely off the table. 

Mendoza: “It takes so much to prepare for something like this. So much mental energy, so much time, on top of my job. But I wouldn’t say that I would never do it again… I would say… maybe…we’ll see.”

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