Copperas Cove police Capt. Jeremy Alber thought he knew what he was getting into when he decided to enter last month’s Fort Worth Marathon, but nothing prepared him for the reality of trying to run non-stop for 26.2 miles – nearly the driving distance from Cove to Belton.
“At about mile 20 or 21, I hit a wall,” Alber says. “My knees, my ankles, my hips...every part of my lower body was in pain. On a scale of zero to 10, it was like an 8 or 9.
“I ended up walking for about four or five miles, until I looked over my shoulder and saw a guy running up behind me. I was like, ‘I can’t let this dude beat me,’ so I started running again.”
Despite walking several miles, the 42-year-old father of two finished the race in a respectable four hours and 50 minutes, not far behind the average marathon finishing time of four hours and 22 minutes. Actually completing one of sport’s most challenging events was satisfying, but Alber says he was a little disappointed at not meeting his goal of four hours and 30 minutes.
“I anticipated a lot of (physical) breakdown, but not nearly as much as what takes place – your body just shutting down,” he explained. “It is much more difficult than I think the average person realizes. It’s certainly more painful than anything I’d done prior to that.
“I’ll probably do it again, because I want to go back and meet my goal — then I won’t have to do it again ever in my life.”
A veteran of nearly 20 years on the Cove police force, Alber was born in Colorado to a military family of three boys that followed their dad’s duty assignments back and forth to Germany, central Texas, Germany, New York, Germany, and finally Fort Hood again, when he was 13 years old.
After graduating from Copperas Cove High School in 1996, he went to work as a teller for First Texas Bank, earning promotions up to assistant branch manager. He enjoyed the bank business and considered at one point making it a career, but came to a crossroads at age 22 and decided to go after his childhood dream of becoming a police officer.
“At 21, I thought I was going to stay working with the bank,” Alber said. “I liked it, and I wanted to get into a branch manager position or a loan officer position, but I never saw that coming about. It seemed like it was going to be a dead-end. I had always wanted to be a police officer, and I saw that Copperas Cove was hiring, so I applied.
“It was kind of a lifelong thing; something I always wanted to do. Me and my brothers used to like to watch ‘CHiPs’ (a popular 1977-83 television series about two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers). I would sit on one end of the couch, and my brother would sit on the other end of the couch, and another brother would sit on the arm of the chair, and that was our motorcycles, and we’d go riding with CHiPs.”
A lot has changed during his law enforcement career, Alber says, including himself. When he first came on the job, he was a typical wide-eyed academy graduate, but it didn’t take him long to fall in love with being out on the streets.
“I was scared to death,” he said, laughing. “The first ticket I wrote, I was trying to hold my ticket book and my pen, and I was shaking so bad, you could hardly read the darn thing. I look back at that and I think, ‘Wow.’
“In the police academy, they tell you that people are going to try and kill you. They preach that over and over and over again. Officer safety – make sure you’re safe. Be aware of what this person looks like; what they’re doing; how could that impact you.
“So that first month or two, you’re still in that mode of ‘this person could kill me.’ Eventually, you begin to – I don’t want to say relax – but you start to figure things out, and you get into a groove of reading people.
“This has been the best job in the world. As a patrol officer, you get to do what you want to do, whenever you want to do it, all the way up until a dispatcher tells you to go and do something else. So that freedom...if you want to drive down that street, you drive down that street. If you want to go walk around this area, you go walk around that area. I never had that working with the bank.
“To me, that was just an awesome feeling.”
As might be expected for someone in good enough shape to run a marathon, one thing Alber is noted for now is being a bit of a fitness fanatic. In fact, he is a certified personal trainer who helps other officers get in shape and maintain fitness levels that meet city standards. Most of the time, he works out twice a day at his home gym, and runs seven to 10 miles on Sundays. He may miss a workout here and there, but those days are rare.
“If I wake up in the morning and don’t get a workout in, I feel like I cheated myself for the whole day.
“When I first started working here, I weighed about 135 pounds, soaking wet. Now, I weigh about 185 pounds. I started seeing the stress of life taking its toll on my body – gaining weight and that type of thing. Every day on patrol, I was eating two or three 7-Eleven hot dogs for lunch. I wasn’t miserable, but I wasn’t feeling that great, either.
“I had been on the job close to 10 years, and I went to a seminar sponsored by the Coryell County Sheriff’s Department, and the presenter said, ‘The best way to get your life back under control is with 30 to 60 minutes a day of vigorous exercise.’
“I tried it, and it worked. I made it a habit, and it’s been a habit ever since.”
How about marathons? Any chance of forming a new exercise habit there?
“No, no, no,” Alber said, smiling, shaking his head. “Like I said, I’ll go back and run the Fort Worth one again, so I can say I met my goal. But after that, no thanks. I have no desire to ever do that again.”