Competitors run through the Mojave Desert in the 22nd Annual Challenge Cup Baker-to-Vegas Relay. Photo Dale Stockton
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Foot pursuits are one of the most physically demanding activities an officer engages in, but imagine one that runs more than 100 miles and, instead of city streets, traverses the desert and over mountains regardless of heat or cold. This challenge faced thousands of law enforcement personnel from places as far away as Australia and British Columbia who converged in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Known as the Baker-to-Vegas (BV) Challenge Cup Relay, the 120-mile relay race began in 1984 with 19 teams. This year, 228 teams met in Baker, Calif., a town known primarily for the world's tallest thermometer, which stands in the middle of town.
It's hard to envision any effort that more effectively incorporates virtually every aspect of leadership. Line-level officers are often team captains, effectively turning the rank structure upside down. While 20 people actually run per team, the number of support members usually exceeds the number of runners. Budgeting, personnel concerns and logistics are all part of the challenge.
Chiefs and sheriffs who have witnessed the benefits become big supporters according to Chuck Foote, one of the original race organizers: "They believe in it so much that many get out and run. That's a tremendous boost to the other participants. Even those who don't run go and support the team." Many commit command vans, radios and safety vests, and permit officers to creatively rearrange their schedules.
This year, the fastest time came from the California Highway Patrol Sacramento Division with a time of just over 13 hours, 5 minutes. For those teams who went home without an award, they didn't go home empty-handed many learned they were physically capable beyond what they thought possible.
You can't go through an experience like Baker to Vegas without growing. Leaders were recognized, skills were mastered and goals achieved. If you think your department is up to it, plans are already in the works for next year's relay in April 2007. Check out www.bakervegas.com where to find 2007 info, a complete rule book and the full results of this year's race.