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Edmonton police officer, paramedic, firefighter run half marathon in uniform for PTSD awareness

WATCH ABOVE: A firefighter, police officer and paramedic ran the Edmonton half marathon on Sunday while wearing their uniform and gear. The trio said they did it as a visual display and reminder of the impacts PTSD has on first responders. Julia Wong reports.

A group of three women tackled the Edmonton Marathon on Sunday with a visual reminder that first responders can sometimes carry the burden of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Police officer Sylvie Boy, firefighter Jessica LaMer and paramedic Amy Benson ran the 21-kilometre race wearing their uniforms and gear, which for LaMer included an oxygen tank.

The idea came from Boy, an eight-year veteran of Edmonton Police Service, who also served eight years in the French military.

“A lot of our brothers and sisters are suffering from PTSD,” she said.

“The reason why we are wearing the full uniform is we want to run with a load, which is what those guys and gals have to carry every day.”

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READ MORE: A soldier’s story about living with PTSD

Boy said she has not suffered from PTSD but has seen the toll it has taken on her colleagues.

“It starts with anger, withdrawal… everything seems impossible to move on. There’s anger. I’ve seen alcoholism.”

The women are raising money for Wounded Warriors, an organization that helps and supports military members, veterans and first responders.

Boy, who had never run a half marathon before, was anxious before the race but eager to participate.

“It’s not supposed to be an easy race. Our brothers and sisters that are suffering from PTSD, it’s not an easy life to live either,” she said.

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READ MORE: Can playing Tetris help slow the onset of PTSD? Researchers think it might

LaMer, who has been a firefighter for 21 years, said the group wanted to have a visual impact on spectators.

“So they take notice and say, ‘Huh, why are these girls all in their gear?’ We’re trying to bring awareness to an issue that’s often hidden,” she said.

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“We’re the visible on an invisible kind of illness that a lot of people in our field are suffering from.”

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LaMer said she hopes wearing the uniform and gear will remind Edmontonians about the struggles first responders can face.

“Maybe they’ll understand a little more that we deal with a lot of stuff in our jobs that other people don’t have to deal with.”

READ MORE: First responders seek support to avoid long-term trauma

Benson, the only one in the group who had experience running marathons, said running has helped her cope with the calls she responds to as a paramedic, citing the time she treated a patient who looked like her little brother.

“There was nothing more I could for him. You do your best, every day. When you can’t do anything more, there’s this feeling of powerlessness and that’s, I think, what causes a lot of trauma,” she said, adding regaining the sense of control can help combat it.

“When I’m in that space where I feel like I’m powerless and I don’t know what else to do, I hit the pavement and I run until I have nothing else to give. And then I give a little more. There’s this reserve you can always dig in to. You think you’re done and then you’re not.”

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Despite their uniforms and gear, the trio kept a good pace with the other half marathoners.
Despite their uniforms and gear, the trio kept a good pace with the other half marathoners. Julia Wong/Global News

Though she has running experience, Benson said she would not be leaving her teammates’ sides – the trio ran side-by-side the whole race.

“We stand together, and we have each other’s backs,” she said.

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The women finished the half marathon in two hours, 19 minutes.

The group has raised more than $10,000, surpassing its goal. Donations are being accepted until the end of the month.

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