Joel Arellano ready to run 25 miles in bomb disposal suit

Joel Arellano ready to run 25 miles in bomb disposal suit

Joel Arellano trains on a hill at the Tabeguache Trailhead for his upcoming 25-mile run in the Desert Rats Trail Running Festival while wearing a bomb suit along the Kokopelli Trail.  The designated route he will be tackling in the 65-pound suit will include a 4,000-foot vertical gain in elevation. Arellano is a captain with the Grand Junction Fire Department.

Capt. Joel Arellano of the Grand Junction Fire Department will use three pair of shoes during his 25-mile run while wearing his bomb suit.

Joel Arellano straps himself into the coveralls of his bomb suit in the Tabeguache Trail head parking lot as he gets ready to train.

Joel Arellano wanted to train for a very special race, so he turned to a good friend for advice.

The 39-year-old Grand Junction Fire Department captain is running in the Gemini Adventures Desert Rats Trail Running Festival on Saturday on the Kokopelli Trail system, south of Loma.

The race is 25 miles, but the unique part of it is his gear — a bomb disposal suit. Bomb suits weigh between 65 and 70 pounds.

“I called him and asked him, ‘How do I train for this?’ and he just laughed,” Arellano said. “He came up with a schedule and sent it to me. He said, ‘Here’s my best guess. Let me know how it goes.’

“I’ve been kind of following it as much as I can, however, I got really sick over the winter, so that hurt a lot of the training at a pretty crucial time. It’s been a learning process, that’s for sure.”

He will start his run at midnight and hopes to finish by noon Saturday.

The start/finish lines are at the Mack trail head on Kokopelli Trail.

Arellano, a bomb technician for the Grand Junction Police and Fire Department, has run marathons (26.2 miles) before, but never in a bomb suit.

“In the bomb community, it became a big deal who could run the fastest mile ,then a 5K,” Arellano said.

“Then it turned into who could run a marathon in a suit. For me, I do have a prior military background, but when I went to bomb school last year and met an American who did one, I started thinking. I’ve done a lot of other runs and events. It fits right in.”

He has trained for the run in the bomb suit for six weeks, but hasn’t run more than six miles in it.

“I’m getting used to dealing with it and figuring out how you’re going to cool yourself and hydrate, just being used to it,” Arellano said. “I’ve worked in this suit and trained for work in this suit, but you’re in it for maybe 15 minutes. You’re not really going far. This is a little bit different.”

Arellano will have plenty of support to make the run happen, and knows he’ll need that support if the weather is warm.

“It definitely would not be happening without the crew I have,” Arellano said. “I thought I could pull it off if the temperatures were cooler, but for this, there’s a lot of logistics and effort from other people that are going into shuttling ice, taking my temperature all the time, make sure I don’t overheat, making me eat, making me drink.

“The biggest thing is we got a commitment from paramedics. If they see things that are unsafe, they’re the ones that have the call.”

Arellano, who was injured training to become a Navy SEAL, is running in a bomb suit to raise money for families of military and civilian bomb technicians.

He has raised more than $1,600, but his goal is $2,500.

Donations go to the Wounded Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Warrior Foundation. People can make donations at

“Last year, they raised over $350,000 and helped 60 families of wounded (military),” Arellano said. “A majority of the people they help are military the bomb techs since they are busy right now, but they offer assistant to civilian bomb technicians as well in the event they are injured.”

The foundation helps not only with medical expenses, but logistics for families.

Arellano was an active child, wrestling and riding his bicycle. By the age of 15, he rode his bicycle over Colorado National Monument twice on one ride.

“We grew up and didn’t have any money,” Arellano said. “But I always had a bike, which was like a sense of freedom. We were usually riding all over the valley. When I was 15, I did two laps over the monument. I was doing it because it was fun and free.”

He joined the Navy after he graduated high school with the intent on becoming a Navy SEAL, but was injured in a water training event. That didn’t stop him from maintaining an active lifestyle when he left the Navy.

Arellano severely injured his shoulder in a climbing event that required major surgery and rehabilitation. He tore the labrum and partially severed a biceps tendon.

“Of all the things I’ve done with my friends or on my own, this is probably the biggest test I’ve undergone,” Arellano said. “It takes coordinating quite a few people to help me with this.”

He draws inspiration from friends he made in the Navy and at the fire department.

“The friends I made in the military and here and some of their experiences, really helped push me,” Arellano said, tearing up.

“I went to bomb school and met this first sergeant, who did a marathon in a bomb suit and thought that was awesome. You pay attention to the news and see what sacrifices people make to be away from their family and friends and this isn’t in comparison to that.

“I’m trying to earn some funds for people out there doing truly amazing things.”


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