Los Angeles police officers Joe Cirrito and Kristina Tudor know that running 420 miles to Sacramento over 12 days is going to be an exercise in agony, but they're doing it for the greater good — raising money for the families of officers killed in the line of duty.
The officers began their journey Nov. 27 at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Elysian Park. They're running with the added weight of their uniforms, fully loaded and duty-ready Sam Browne belts and boots that, Tudor said, "feel like anchors tied to your feet."
"We're going into the unknown," said Tudor, 30, who at a diminutive 5 feet 3 inches tall is an ultramarathon runner and one of about 10 women on the LAPD's elite Metropolitan Division. "There are definitely things we're going to be learning about ourselves that we probably didn't even know existed."
Cirrito, who is 47 years old and 5 feet 11 inches, joked that this run is his midlife crisis. A sprinter in college who hated distance, Cirrito has been running 80 miles a week in his uniform before his shift at 2 a.m. to get ready. The former teacher and college football player from New York has been psyching himself up by watching "Rocky" movies and listening to AC/DC.
"It's a huge motivator for me," he said.
They'll alternate running 20-mile legs, while the other rests and rehydrates in a recreational vehicle that will pace them north on State Route 33. They'll have foods full of proteins and carbs — salmon and chicken for Cirrito — as well as Gatorade, soda and water. Rotating support teams will handle security, social media updates and logistics in utility vans that will leap frog along the route.
Cirrito, a senior lead officer at the LAPD's Olympic Division, was inspired by his friend, Dominick Pezzulo, a former high school shop teacher who became a New York/New Jersey Port Authority officer in 2000. Pezzulo had been on the job one year when he was among the more than 70 officers killed when terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
It's been 16 years, but Cirrito still cries when talking about his friend.
"I can't watch anything that deals with 9/11 without tearing up," he said. "I feel that it's also a driving force for me because he became my hero."
Cirrito and Tudor hope to raise $10,000.
They're ready. Last year, the two ran the 26-mile LA Marathon in full gear in under six hours.
Tudor said her hips and thighs hurt, but she knows that a big part of running is mental. So she prepared by reading "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell.
"It relaxes me mentally, keeps my mind sharp," she said.
Cirrito has kept to a strict diet of chicken and fish — no fast food, beer, or other meat.
He'll stream music on his phone to keep him motivated through the run.
"This is an honor for me," he said. "This has been a very tough year for law enforcement. The biggest thing about why I enjoy running in uniform is I get to talk to people. It's so important that people understand that we're human."