NORRIDGEWOCK — More than 700 people participated in the second annual Corporal Cole Memorial 5K and Half Marathon on Sunday morning in honor of fallen officer Eugene Cole who was killed in the line of duty last April.

To honor Cole’s badge number, which was 1312, each mile was marked at .12 and the half marathon was for 13.12 miles. Along the route, signs with inspirational quotes and words that pertained to Cole’s memory — “dad,” “husband,” “friend” — were displayed in order to further honor Cole’s memory and impact.

The crowd of runners, walkers and supporters began to gather around 6:30 a.m. at Mill Stream Elementary School for the half marathon and at 8 a.m. for the 5K. Participants and onlookers ranged from local running groups, Cole’s family and Maine State Police, as well as other fellow law enforcement officers and first responders.

The event is dedicated to celebrating Cole’s memory but also honors the work of law enforcement officers and first responders across the board, according to Theresa Howard from the Corporal Cole Memorial 5K and Half Marathon planning committee.

“We’re a group of local residents who felt compelled to create an event to honor Cpl. Cole and all others who are involved with law enforcement and public safety,” Howard said. “I’m a firefighter wife, one of our members is an EMT; we just felt like we had to do something to show our support to those who work in the field.”

All of the proceeds are donated to the Corporal Cole Memorial Scholarship Fund which sponsors Somerset County residents who wish to further their careers in law enforcement.

Howard said the event is important in order to keep the memory of Cole alive in the community.

“We need to get the word out there because we never want the community to forget him,” Howard said.

The event kicked off with the singing of the National Anthem, followed by three moments of silence for Capt. Jim Lane of the Fairfield Fire Department who died on Aug. 9 due to complications from heart surgery, Detective Ben Campbell of the Maine State Police who was killed on Interstate 95 in April, and of course, Cpl. Cole.

“Corporal Cole is the reason were all here today,” an announcer said at the starting line. “We’re here for him and all of the other law enforcement officers who follow in his footsteps. Just like his wife, Sheryl, said, ‘his shoes may never be filled but his footsteps can always be followed.'”

Cole’s wife opened the race by firing off the signal horn.

Among the large crowd of attendees was the Greater Poland Running Group.

Member Nancy Walker said the group decided to run at the event for two main reasons.

“We’re here to support this amazing cause but also to support our friend and fellow group member Julie,” Walker said. “Not only is this her first half marathon but her son also wants to be a police officer. So we’re here supporting both causes.”

In addition to the memorial run and scholarship fund, the town of Norridgewock now officially recognizes April 25, the day Cole was killed, as Corporal Eugene Cole Day. On the town’s websites it’s stated that on April 25, “the community is encouraged to volunteer, give back and get involved as a way to honor Gene and the service of law enforcement officers and their families.”

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