By Amanda Yarger
At approximately 3 a.m. Saturday, Albuquerque, N.M., junior Brad Dimos and other members of Student Foundation began chalking the course for the 13.1-mile race called the Bearathon, an annual half-marathon sponsored by the student organization to raise funds for scholarships.
The runners started at Fountain Mall, and members laid a chalk outline on the course during the dark hours of the night to guide participants along the way.
Mother Nature, however, interrupted plans to chalk the course by sending a 2-inch rainfall to Waco, effectively washing away the the first chalked course and causing the course to be redone multiple times.
“When we were chalking, a lot of the chalk washed away,” Dimos said. “We really had to go over it a couple times and it added a lot of time and effort to making sure people followed the right course.”
Dimos said Student Foundation partnered with the Baylor Cycling Club, using pace bikers, to guide runners as they progressed through the course. Members of the Cycling Club biked ahead to steer participants in the correct direction.
Shreveport, La., senior Katy Wagner, the co-chair of Student Foundation’s Campus Promotions Committee, said the chalking was scheduled to begin at 1 a.m., but was pushed back two hours because of the weather.
“It probably took the same amount of time [as past years], but we ended up chalking sparingly - mainly around corners – just to conserve our time,” she said.
Wagner said despite the setback in chalking, the rest of the setup process at the stadium went smoothly.
“Between the set-up starting at 1 a.m. and the taking down at 1 p.m., we had a full 12-hour day,” she said.
Although the weather provided rough conditions for chalking, Wagner said the runners expressed gratitude for the cooler temperatures and moisture while they participated in the race.
This weekend was a testament to the many trials and obstacles Student Foundation faces in planning and preparing for the toughest half-marathon in Texas, which last year raised $55,000 for student scholarships.
“We have a large amount of student activities that are involved with every part of the Bearathon,” Dimos said. “At every mile marker we have sororities cheering on runners, we have the Baylor Biking Club being the pacers, we have Student Foundation workers, we have Medical Service Organization providing first aid – it’s all student workers, so that’s a really unique thing unlike a city-run race. The Baylor community had to really get close to make that all happen and the Waco community really showed up today, too.”
Race fees for Bearathon cover all expenses of the event, from participant timing chips to water at the mile markers. All proceeds then go into a scholarship fund to be distributed to students who demonstrate financial need and merit.
Part of the Bearathon’s success can be attributed to the difficulty of the course itself. Spanning from Fountain Mall to McLane Stadium, the race covers the rigorous hills of Cameron Park and has been nicknamed the “Toughest Half in Texas.”
Because of the intensity of the run, it attracts runners who compete both nationally and internationally for titles.
“The guys who were finishing at the front were running just shy of 80 minutes and that’s really competitive with those hills,” he said. “The people who are finishing now [10:30 a.m.] are just people who wanted to give it a try and everyone in-between. The bulk of the runners are people who have been training and are in shape — some just wanted to come out here and have some fun.”
For many in the Baylor community, Bearathon offers a chance for a challenging race alongside family members and friends.
“For the runners, that it’s a really good bonding experience because it’s a fun event — it’s a fun venue at McLane Stadium with the band and everything,” Dimos said. “We can see people walking around long after they’ve finished, just to cheer on other runners. Runners are super nice people.”
Castle Rock, Colo., freshman Miranda Erickson said she trained for Bearathon while fulfilling a LF credit by taking aerobic running this semester.
“The best part of the race is the encouragement,” she said. “There was one point where my friend and I passed each other and high-fived each other.”
Erickson, who had not previously competed in a half marathon, said the hills were by far the most strenuous part of the race.
“There was one hill that was really killer, but I said ‘I won’t walk it!’ and I kept going,” she said. “I was able to do it and now I know it’s possible.”
A new addition to the race this year included moving the finish line to McLane Stadium. Last year, the race ended on Fifth Street.
“I wasn’t a runner, but I can imagine coming over that bridge after 13 miles coming downhill. That’s got to feel nice with all the cheering and the big arch,” Dimos said. “I’d definitely say it’s a big improvement over the previous location.”
Another special addition to the event was the remembrance of Daniel Jones. In 2013, the Richland Hills senior passed away during the race due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease, according to the autopsy report.
“We honored him with a prayer at the beginning of the race and we also had his name on the finish tape,” Wagner said. “We were also working with his family and their requests. His sister wanted to run with his number.”
In addition to honoring Jones’ memory, a former Baylor staff member was represented during the race.
“Another thing this year was Team Bev,” Dimos said. “They were representing Beverly Warlick, who was a faculty member who passed away recently. They were all running and helping by volunteering at every capacity in her name.”
Warlick, who passed away in December, worked as an Office Manager for Campus Recreation. She served at Baylor for 20 years.
Despite the initial lackluster weather delaying some of the set-up activities, the overall turnout of the event was positive as the race continues to grow in popularity, Dimos said.
“Everything involved in it — from getting the sponsorships, to getting everything set here — is done by the students,” he said. “We really have to work together on that with a lot of people and that really helps solidify a lot of friendships.”