Powering through the final yards to Hagerstown's Public Square in 87-degree heat Wednesday afternoon, the team of law-enforcement officers and Special Olympians who participated in this year's Law Enforcement Torch Run were sweaty, but smiling.
"I think it's a great way to raise money for Special Olympics, and it's fun to get out and run," Maryland state Trooper Andy Smith said.
Smith was one of about 40 local officers to participate in the Washington County leg of the Maryland Torch Run Relay to convey the "Flame of Hope" across Maryland to the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games at Towson University on Friday.
In Washington County, the run began in Hancock at 7:30 a.m. and was to continue along U.S. 40 to the Frederick County line at the top of South Mountain, finishing around 2:30 p.m., said John Ryder, a retired Hagerstown police sergeant. The run is a relay, with different groups running each segment.
At noon, the runners took a short break at Public Square to take photos and hear a proclamation from Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith.
Many of the Special Olympics athletes in the group said they joined the run a few blocks from the square and intended to continue through the downtown segment.
"We're getting ready for Towson," said Candi Blessing, 25, a member of Washington County's Special Olympics track team.
"They did a good job on a hot day," Assistant Track Coach John Follett said.
Follett said when his son, Lee, was born, doctors said he would never walk, but with the support of Special Olympics, Lee and his father ran a 5K last year.
"It's very important that the public realize that our Special Olympians truly are athletes," Follett said.