PARAMUS, N.J. -- Standing at the starting line of his very first obstacle course in 2014, everything seems to be moving in slow motion for Paramus Deputy Chief Robert Guidetti.
The starting horn blows. Water comes shooting out of hoses in every which direction. The dirt underneath Guidetti's shoes turns to mud and suddenly, he's sinking.
There was only one way out: Run.
And he did, for just over three miles -- with those who can for those who cannot.
That Muck Run four years ago at the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange honored those fighting or who have succumbed to multiple sclerosis.
Four years ago, that someone was his uncle, former Wildwood Police Chief Anthony J Sittineri, who died in 1997 after battling the disease for years.
Sittineri has a special place in the deputy chief's heart: He was the one who helped him land his first police job more than three decades ago.
Guidetti completed the race honoring Sittineri with his cousins, who asked him to join them in a tribute to their father. Guidetti said he found racing to be more exciting than simply writing a check and making a donation.
Soon he was hooked.
"At the starting line, I was wondering what I got myself into," he said. "But it was so worth it."
Guidetti, 53, told himself that he was going to become fit enough to participate in more events, like the mud run, and raise money for different causes -- like cancer, which killed his uncle, Jim Guidetti, in 1996.
The deputy chief has since completed varioius events, including a 5K run for the Special Olympics in San Diego, the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Tower run for first responders and military members, a Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics and more.
His next endeavor is Cycle for Survival, "a movement to beat cancer." He is currently raising money for the organization ahead of his 18-mile ride on Feb. 11.
Staying in shape is important for Guidetti. After all, his life isn't the only one that depends on it.
"I've been in fights, foot chases and car crashes -- all while wearing 25 pounds of gear," he said.
Without being mentally and physically fit, I would have not had the stamina to do my job properly.
"I believe if we improve officers' health," he said, "we will run a more efficient agency, reducing costs associated with physical injuries and the reduction of costs regarding overtime replacement for officers out sick or injured due to poor physical condition."
The deputy chief stresses to the new patrolmen the importance of being physically and mentally fit.
He learned it the hard way himself when he was in their shoes.
Guidetti was fit as ever when he entered the police academy in his early 20s, but it only took five years for the reality of his new job as a Paramus patrolman to settle in.
Poor lifestyle choices, midnight shifts and eating diner food at 4 a.m. five nights a week weren't helping.
It became critical that he correct his health, as cancer and heart disease began taking the lives of his neighbors, acquaintances, fellow officers and loved ones.
"Next to gunfire and automobile accidents, heart attacks are one of the top three killers to law enforcement officers," the deputy chief said.
"We are in a job where fitness is often critical for officers and the citizens we protect. There are very few jobs where your life might depend on your level of fitness."
He started at different local gyms and fell in love with indoor cycling and CrossFit out of Gold's Gym, particularly.
Raising money through fitness was the natural course of progression and training for those events has become part of Guidetti's everyday workout regimen.
"Circuit training fits my body type," said Guidetti on the upstairs turf of HackensackUMC Fitness and Wellness Center on Route 17, early Thursday at 5:45 a.m.
"I enjoy activities like swimming, biking and running, but I'll only do them once or twice a week."
He pulled his iPhone out of his bag and plugged in his AirPod headphone by Apple.
The first song on the playlist was Detroit Rock City by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. That's routine for the prowler push, which takes Guidetti several yards across the turf.
With as much passion and drive as if he was covered in mud, Guidetti picked up two kettle bells waiting for him on the other side of the turf, and brought them back to the starting line.
As the workout progressed, the exercises became more challenging.
Guidetti had many reasons to quit.
Shoulder pain from years of wear and tear on the job. Breathlessness. General discomfort.
But he knew that what he was experiencing was trivial compared to what others are suffering from.
So he kept going until the very end. Then he gave it his all.
"When you feel like you're in good shape, everything clicks," the deputy chief said, gearing up to do it all again.
"If you feel good about yourself, then you feel good about everything you do."
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