New changes to Bearathon take place under social distancing requirements

Competitors break into a run after hearing the soundoff to start the 5K Bearathon on Saturday, Mar. 23, 2014 on 5th Street in front of Fountain Mall. This year, the Bearathon will be held virtually on Saturday to follow social distancing guidelines. Lariat File Photo

By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer

The annual Bearathon has shifted the way runners are involved this year as social distancing requirements continue. This year’s event will take place Saturday and allows runners to choose from one of four options to complete their Bearathon 2020 race experience.

Plano senior Alexis Layton, Bearathon co-race director for the Student Foundation, said it was important to create a virtual option for the Bearathon as it is on the Baylor bucket list and many participants have been training for months.

“We want to recognize that effort for people and still allow them to showcase what they’ve been working on for so long in training,” Layton said. “I think it’s a really good way to promote people to continue to be active and get outside.”

While 1,300 people had initially signed up for the in-person Bearathon, about 400 additional people have signed up for the new virtual option.

Jordan Hannah, associate director of student activities and Troy & Betty Mays director of student foundation, said that to sign up for the new virtual option, participants either paid $30 for the Bearathon or $25 for the 6K, a decrease from in-person prices.

“This year it made a lot of sense for us to keep it low, maximize our participation and make sure we can help as many students as we could and invite as many people as we could into a tradition that they may not be able to take part in otherwise,” Hannah said.

Friendswood senior Ben LeBlanc, Bearathon co-race director for the Student Foundation, said that the change allowed for prospective students to be involved.

“In the past, they hadn’t been able to run the Bearathon unless they were in Waco, but this way, new students around America and around the world, can run the virtual marathon,” LeBlanc said.

This new student option was free to sign up, and about 50 new students already have. The Student Foundation is working with the admissions office to send these participants race items.

The Bearathon is hosted by Student Activities and led and managed by student race directors in coordination with Jordan Hannah and the proceeds from the Bearathon typically go to the Bearathon Endowed Scholarship Fund. Hannah says they are not yet sure what takeaway from the race will be given to the fund yet.

However, after the cost of production and shipping, the funds from the new virtual Bearathon sign up will benefit the President’s Excellence Fund, a scholarship that assists students impacted by effects of COVID-19.

“What’s mission centric for us [Student Foundation] is trying to find opportunities to support the university and fellow students and demonstrate generosity and what that means,” Hannah said. “Obviously the Bearathon still has a philanthropic element but there is a greater, more pressing need right now at the university so we wanted to do what we could to support that need.”

Bearathon participants have been given four options when it comes to the virtual layout, to choose what option fits them best.

Option one is for those that want to continue the race. By tracking their run on an app that tracks workouts such as Nike+ Run Club, Strava or Couch to 5K, participants are then able to submit their results to a form on Baylor Connect to be eligible for prizes.

The available Bearathon and Sic ‘Em 6K courses are available on MapMyRun.

Option two is for those who were previously signed up but do not want to run the race at home. Those who choose this option will be shipped their “swag bag” and a partial refund of $15 for the Bearathon and $10 for the Sic ‘Em 6K.

Option three is similar with a $25 Bearathon refund and $15 Sic ‘Em 6K refund, but the “swag bag” is not available for shipping and can be picked up at a later date.

The final option is for those who do not want a refund at all and continue to contribute towards Student Foundation scholarships.

“Our goal was to provide as much return value to the runners, essentially the option of a kind of variation of a partial refund and or swag shipped to them.” Hannah said.

Participants are able to make this decision until Sunday.

A Frequently Asked Questions page can be found on the Student Activities website.

“Eventually, the world is going to open back,” LeBlanc said. “This time of social distancing is something that’s really necessary right now but it’s not going to be forever, eventually we’re going to go back and we’re going to have a marathon again in person. So it’s just a nice reminder to everyone, this is temporary. It’s important, but it’s temporary.”