SALT LAKE CITY — If you are a Salt Lake County resident, you may have heard of a man by the name of Jake Petersen, who is running for Salt Lake County sheriff. However, there is more to the “running” thing than meets the eye.
Running a campaign is not the only running Petersen does. And while the campaign trail is where he spends much of his time these days, he can also be found running the trails of the Wasatch Mountains.
Petersen is a runner who has competed in multiple marathons and ultra-distance marathons, and often "patrols" mountain trails by foot. However, if you would have told the Unified Police lieutenant that he would be doing so — even five years ago — he would have denied it.
Up until three years ago, Petersen saw running as a chore. It was something he was required to do during trainings and PT tests, but it was something he never saw himself doing recreationally.
All that changed a few years ago when close friend and fellow SWAT team member John Byrge impressed Petersen by the way he trained for marathons.
“I watched him closely as he started to train for and run marathons; it seemed to change his whole perspective on life in very positive ways,” Petersen said.
Intrigued, the lieutenant asked his friend how he could become a better runner.
“John encouraged me to lengthen run distances and taught me about hydration and nutrition during long runs,” Petersen said.
However, what intrigued him most was the way John spoke about the sense of community and togetherness he felt with other runners and spectators during races. “It seemed peculiar to me. Running always seemed like a purely solitary endeavor."
After his first race, the Provo Marathon, Petersen said he got a taste of the unique camaraderie of a marathon, but went on to say that he had no idea that even bigger running lessons were in store.
Not long after running the Provo Marathon, Petersen was asked to help pace a friend who was running the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run.
"I didn’t even know people could run that far, let alone there being an official event for doing so,” he said. “I paced my friend for the last 25 miles of his 100-mile run. I was amazed and genuinely moved by the hundreds of volunteers that were staged along the trail to help runners achieve such an incredible feat. From that day, I was hooked! I’ve run several road and trail marathons and 50Ks both in Utah and California."
In November 2013, Petersen traveled with his family to Sacramento County, California, to run the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Race. While there, he recalled being a recipient of the kind volunteers along the way.
"I was amazed and genuinely moved by the hundreds of volunteers that were staged along the trail to help runners achieve such an incredible feat. From that day, I was hooked! I've run several road and trail marathons and 50Ks both in Utah and California."
“… I was helped by dozens of selfless volunteers (one who even washed my feet and tended to my silver-dollar-sized blisters), and I was rejuvenated by the constant cheering of hundreds of spectators. After taking 250,000 steps, eating 11,000 calories, drinking more than 5 gallons of fluid, avoiding a curious mountain lion at 2 a.m. and repeating over and over ‘no giving up,’ I crossed the finish line to the excited embrace of my family in 29 hours and 11 minutes.”
Petersen said he has learned some powerful life lessons as a result of his ultra-marathon running experiences.
“First, if you think you can’t, you won’t. Our limitations in life are largely self-imposed; we can reach far beyond our current grasp. Second, the greatest and most meaningful achievements in life are accomplished as a team. Even if you sign up for an endurance race alone, you’ll find out you will only finish as part of a team. The seemingly impossible can be accomplished when we work together toward a common goal.”
The candidate went on to say that although he longs to be running on the mountain trails, this year most of his running will be on the campaign trail.
“Undoubtedly, the lessons garnered from endurance running have molded my philosophies about the impact each of us potentially have in our community,” Petersen said.
“There are very few limits to what we can accomplish if we work together. Making our community safer for our children than it was for us seems like a tall order. We face a lot of seemingly insurmountable challenges that affect our lives. However, I know that if we ‘never give up’ we can make a real difference."
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running the beautiful trails around Utah. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page by searching "A mother's Write" or visit her blogs, timetofititin.com or thestoriesofyourlife.wordpress.com.