For Constable Jeffery Bartsch, running is a way to take a load off your mind.
Now, he’s putting that extra weight back on as he prepares to tackle the Queen City Marathon in full police gear.
“I’ve run marathons in shorts and t-shirts and it’s tough enough,” Bartsch, who works for the Weyburn Police Service, said. “When you’re running with a vest on that restricts your breathing, a hat around your head that absolutely hurts and a belt around your waist that doesn’t move at all with extra weight, it takes on a whole new meaning and mental state.”
Over the past three years, Bartsch has run more than 150 kilometres in uniform across North America, raising more than $7,000 for mental health charities as a result.
He began running as a way to deal with the daily stress and difficult situations he faced on the job.
But this time, it’s hitting even closer to home.
Bartsch was among those rocked by the August 10 shooting in Fredericton that left two civilians and two officers dead.
On Sunday, he’ll run with a Fredericton strong banner and laminated photos of fallen Constables Sara Burns and Robb Costello.
It’s a connection that runs deep.
In 2015, Bartsch graduated from the Atlantic Police Academy in New Brunswick’s capital, where he made a close friend in Burns. He would return to Fredericton as an honourary pallbearer for the regimental funeral.
“I got to know a lot of Maritime people who opened their hearts, their arms, and their doors,” Bartsch recalled. “A lot of carpooling back and forth to the academy in Fredericton. She (Burns) just basically put you in her family as one of her own. She was a very kind-hearted person who worked hard and loved her job. I’m very honoured to be doing this for her and Robb Costello.”
While he’s preparing for a long, emotional run, Bartsch says the race course has been a path to finding his own peace of mind.
READ MORE: Getting support for Mental Health Week
He’s pledging to continue on for his colleagues, and anyone struggling with mental health.
“Everyone of us goes through it. You don’t have to be a first responder. We need to be smart. We need to ask for help and have mental health checks with one another.”