Baylor ROTC ‘rucks’ the toughest half in Texas

Streetman junior Drew Garcia and San Diego, Calif., junior Steven Heller are two of the 43 Baylor ROTC members who ran the Bearathon, nicknamed the “toughest half-marathon in Texas,” on Saturday while weaing their 35-pound rucsacks.Josh Aguirre | Multimedia Editor Photo credit: Josh Aguirre

By Adrienne Redman | Reporter

Students and visitors alike took on the harrowing challenge of 13.1 miles Saturday to complete this year’s Bearathon, the “Toughest Half Marathon in Texas.” The Bearathon is an annual half marathon put on by the Baylor Student Foundation as a fundraiser for student scholarships. In addition to the half marathon, there was also a “Sic ‘Em” 6K hosted by the organization.

Spring junior Kaylin Blancas, and incoming co-president for Student Foundation chalked the route for racers to follow early Saturday morning.

The chalking process on Saturday took several hours due to two lightning delays. By 5 a.m. Blancas and other members of the Student Foundation were running with the chalking machines to finish up. Blancas spent the final hours pre-race loading water coolers and driving around the course to check on volunteer aid stations.

According to the Bearathon website the course wraps around Baylor’s campus, with a stretch highlighting the Rosenbalm Fountain, a brief venture into Downtown Waco, through the challenging hills of Cameron Park and will finish alongside the great Brazos River. The Sic ‘Em 6K run has the same start and finish as the Bearathon, but focuses more on Baylor’s campus, cutting out Cameron Park.

This year a group of Baylor ROTC students made this year’s Bearathon even tougher. Streetman junior Drew Garcia, along with 43 members from his unit, “ruck-ed” the Bearathon, running the entire 13.1 miles with a 35-pound rucksack on their backs.

Garcia said rucking is a standard training exercise in the ROTC program that involves “throwing on your pack and marching or running with it.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Garcia said. “But for some of those longer distances it can get pretty hard.”

Many ROTC cadets attend a summer training program their junior year, which requires them to complete a 12-mile run. According to Garcia, the Bearathon provides a little extra training for cadets wanting to gear up for the summer.

“The Bearathon just happens to be a good time to do it, to get some extra rucking in,” he said. “They don’t make it a mandatory event for anybody; if you want to sign up, you can sign up.”

Although ROTC cadets attend morning physical training sessions throughout the semester, many did additional training to get ready for Saturday’s race. Rockwall sophomore Hallie Coy said she prepared by rucking for practice in hopes of “keeping a good pace and getting a good workout in.”

Garcia, on the other hand, focused his preparation on the mentality of the challenge. Having completed a 12-mile ruck last semester, Garcia said he wasn’t worried about going “the extra mile,” literally.

“I kind of have the philosophy that you don’t have to train for it. If you just tell yourself you can go out and do it, you can,” Garcia said. “It’s definitely some willpower.”

Much like the other runners in the race, the ROTC cadets found the motivation for rucking the Bearathon in a variety of ways.

“I think for most people it’s just seeing themselves do it. That’s definitely what it is for me,” Garcia said.

There is also a team-building element to rucking the Bearathon that motivates many cadets, according to Coy who completed the race alongside one of her friends.

“Rucking can be difficult, so it’s bonding to suffer together,” she said.

Although there can be an element of “friendly competition” among cadets, Garcia said many look forward to getting to know members of the detachment they wouldn’t otherwise interact with.

“Maybe you’ll be rucking next to someone you haven’t really talked to,” Garcia said. “It’s a good way to get people together, especially if they’re trying to push each other—just good camaraderie building.”

Bearathon runners can gain some valuable advice from these seasoned ruckers. Garcia’s tips include staying hydrated by packing lots of water, wearing cool clothing and investing in a good pair of wool socks.

The Bearathon and 6K had 1,439 participants and brought in over $25,000 for student scholarships.