Cpl. Eugene Cole Credit: Contributed

A field of 1,000 runners, joggers and walkers are expected to gather Sunday morning for the first Corporal Cole Memorial 5K and half-marathon road races in Norridgewock.

The races are being held in part to support a scholarship fund being created in honor of former Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eugene P. Cole of Norridgewock, who was shot and killed in the line of duty during the early morning hours of April 25.

Cole, a 13-year-veteran of the sheriff’s department, was 61.

Following a four-day manhunt in the area, John D. Williams, 29, of Madison was captured and now is awaiting trial on a murder charge.

“The races are really a way for us to show continued support for law enforcement and for Cpl. Cole and his family,” said race organizer Jessica Gleason of Skowhegan.

Gleason, an instructor at Kennebec Valley Technical College in Fairfield, said the idea to hold a benefit road race was conceived in early May with help from her daughter Zoey.

“Everyone was very guarded that week after April 25,” Gleason said. “I tend to jog, and that was something we stopped doing for that week. Our community was put on hold so that the law enforcement officers weren’t chasing joggers and runners down the road wondering who they were.

“Initially I was thinking of doing something to help the family, and then my daughter said, ‘Mom, we need to do something.’ She was truly the catalyst that lit the fire.”

Gleason contacted the Cole family about their interest in holding a road race and the plan grew to use proceeds from the event to create a scholarship fund in Cole’s honor.

Gleason said the decisions to have both a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race and a half-marathon had different origins.

“A 5K is easy because anyone can participate,” she said. “More than anything, in every element of this race we wanted factors where everybody could participate, so with a 5K we could have both walkers and runners.

“I didn’t hesitate in having a half-marathon because Cpl. Cole’s call number was 1312 so we had to have the half-marathon of 13.12 miles.”

The mile markers for the half-marathon — normally 13.10 miles — will be placed at the .12 point of each mile.

Both races will start and end at the Mill Stream School at 26 Mercer Road, with the half-marathon to begin at 7 a.m. and the 5K to follow at 8 a.m.

Both events will cross the Route 201A bridge over the Kennebec River twice. The Maine House and Senate already have approved a bill that would name that bridge in Cole’s honor.

“We had a lot of different ideas and considerations about the half-marathon,” said Gleason, who added that organizing committee member J.P. Kennedy planned the final version of that course. “We were going to do an easy route, just an out-and-back course, but a day in the life of a law enforcement officer isn’t easy, so why should we make anything about our course easy?

“My one stipulation was that we cross the future Cpl. Cole bridge.”

The field for Sunday’s races was capped at a combined total of 1,000, and while interested runners could register until 11:59 a.m. Friday openings were scarce as of noon Thursday.

Just 30 of 750 slots for the 5K and two of 250 entries for the half-marathon were still available at https://runsignup.com/Race/ME/Norridgewock/CorporalColeMemorial.

Gleason said law enforcement support of the event is considerable, including a team of approximately 40 runners from the Maine Warden Service and another group of 36 representing the Maine State Police.

Gleason said plans are for the races to become an annual event.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...