Bearathon 2017: Bears on the Loose

By Bernadette Cooper

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

People run for many different reasons: those wanting to tune out what’s around and just focus on pace, breathing and the great outdoors; those who want to take home the top prize in their respective category; those running on behalf of a cause or charity; those who want to simply say, “I finished…and here’s my shirt and medal to prove it.”  Others are among the crowded starting lines to meet like-minded folks (runners are indeed a different breed). There are first-timers, regardless of age, and one or two super impressive youth running alongside dad or mom with an energy and enthusiasm unique to a child enjoying a new activity. Often present are those who serve in our United States military, making the feat more impressive as they run with backpacks.

I’ve been exercising for as long as I can remember. In my mid-20s, I incorporated long distance running into my exercise regime for something different to mix up the 80s-workout routine blues. Upon her acceptance into Baylor, my daughter and I (both of us long-time runners) made a pact that we would begin a new tradition and “run among the Bears” each March in Baylor’s annual Bearathon. We made a promise to one another in August 2016 that we would conquer the “toughest half in Texas”.  After all, race day was 7 months away. That would provide plenty of time to train. “We’ve got this; no problem,” we said.

While I wasn’t as prepared for this race as I would have liked (I’d injured myself two months prior to race day and had not worked out since), I was still going to give it the old college try. Race day dawned clear and cool. For reasons beyond my control, I missed the start of the race. After a mini pity-party and a good cleansing cry, I got myself together. Arriving an hour late, I decided to make lemonade from the lemons handed me on that beautiful clear Saturday morning. There was a good wind that kept the temperatures from feeling stifling. A perfect day for a run.

My first thought was to volunteer, but it was clear Baylor and the Student Foundation had everything well under control. Plan B. I thought that the runners could always use another cheerleader throughout the course and at the finish line. I encouraged by clapping and hollering for the teachers, newbies, military. I overheard stories from other spectators who were on hand to cheer friends and family. There was a runner, fresh off a recovery of some sort, finishing a half marathon. I cheered for the swift, the slow and all runners in between. There were teachers, administrators, and students as far as the eye could see.

Standing on the sidelines allowed me to take in the beauty of the event. Baylor showed up in true Baylor form—a slew of tents with all kinds of goodies (nutritional and not so nutritional), families on hand to support a loved one (and strangers), and sororities and fraternities cheering their friends the loudest. It was an exciting time to be a Bear. A hearty congratulation to all the finishers.

Some may not realize this annual half marathon and 5K is a fundraising event, and the proceeds go back to students in the form of scholarships. Baylor’s vision to cultivate committed constituents who give back to the school and community is very much at work. It made this momma bear all kinds of proud to witness first hand.

Next year, Bearathon, I’ll be a Bear on a loose…hopefully with my Bear cub in tow.

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