Keegan Hughes took up running. He’s a cop. He needed a way to relieve stress.
“I needed an excuse to get in shape,” he says.
He’s run marathons. And somewhere along the way he ran across a Wisconsin firefighter, Rob Verhelst, who runs triathlons – in full uniform. Then an officer in California. And others.
“Uniform running … has kind of taken off,” Hughes said.
Count him in.
Since 2013, the Blue Springs officer has run four marathons in uniform and six distance triathlons – a half-marathon, 56 miles on a bike and swimming 1.2 miles, also in uniform. Last fall, he was among a dozen first responders to run the Marine Corps Marathon in full uniform. It’s to raise awareness and raise money for groups that support first responders who have fallen in the line of duty.
This morning he sets out for a bigger challenge.
He’s running across Missouri in nine days, ending at Kauffman Stadium, where on March 31 he will hand a baseball to Independence Police Officer Tom Wagstaff, who was shot and badly wounded a year ago. Wagstaff, who returned home last December but is still on the mend after long months of intense therapy, will throw out the first pitch for the Royals game against the Chicago White Sox at 6:15 that evening.
“Tom’s recovery has been nothing short of a miracle,” Hughes said.
Last year Hughes raised $25,000 for Project Remember/Answering the Call, which aids first responders in their hour of need. That includes $20,000 raised for Wagstaff.
Hughes has been a Blue Springs officer for 15 years, the last seven as a patrol officer.
“Love it,” he says, adding, “It’s where you can do the most good.”
He’s been training for this for some time and says having a coach who gives him his daily training plan makes things a little simpler.
How do you run 260 miles? Here’s the plan: He leaves St. Charles, Missouri, this morning, headed west on the Katy Trail as far as Boonville. At that point, the trail angles southwest, but he’ll get off the trail and keep heading west toward Kansas City. He’ll be putting in about 31 miles a day (that’s about 6,000 calories a day, he figures). Full uniform, by the way, means a vest, a gun and a gun belt – another 15 pounds to carry.
There are ceremonies each day highlighting the work of Answering the Call, and each day’s run is dedicated to one or two fallen first responders.
“I’m going to carry a flag the entire distance every day,” he says.
The last four of those days will have particular resonance to Eastern Jackson County and beyond:
• Day 6 – next Wednesday – is dedicated to the two Clinton, Missouri, police officers killed in the line of duty in the last eight months, Gary Michael and Christopher Morton.
• Day 7 is dedicated to Independence Officer Terry Foster, fatally shot responding to a domestic disturbance 17 years ago.
• Day 8 is dedicated to Assistant Chief Harold Hollingsworth of the Fort Osage Fire Protection District, who died in 2013.
• Day 9 is dedicated to Kansas City firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh – Mesh was an Independence resident – who died when a building collapsed on them in a fire in 2015.