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Campus Chronicles 16: The Toughest Half in Texas

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Recapping the Bearathon from the perspective of a student volunteer

And I'm so happy I'm crying cause I can't believe all the things I ever wanted are finally happening for me. And it's so surreal that I almost feel that any minute I could wake up from this fantasy. When you've prayed so hard and you've come so far and you know that it's the time for you to leave your mark. And I'm gonna do it! Watch me!

Helloooooooooooooo Baylor Nation! I'm so excited to be back for another Campus Chronicles! I don't have time to do these weekly anymore but anytime something huge happens I'll be right here to give you the low down. And boy oh boy something huge happened on March 19th. Over 1,400 people walked and/or ran from McLane Stadium through Baylor's campus, all the way to Cameron Park and up about a dozen hills and back. The Bearathon, the toughest half marathon in the great state of Texas, Baylor Student Foundation's largest event, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I'm so excited to share that experience with y'all. I invite you to share yours as well if you participated. Let's get into it!

Skip to the end if you want a nice emotional closing statement from me complete with great pictures.

Jam of the Week

2:00 AM: Fresh off a 2 hour nap I awoke to report to Ed's (aka the Student Foundation building) to take over a chalking shift. I was responsible for supervising the final 3 mile stretch of the course from Sturgis Rd in Cameron Park back to the finish line at McLane Stadium. As a supervisor I had the easy job, leading the chalkers down the route in my car. Shoutout to Cody and Craig for being true champions and doing the real work and shoutout to our police escort for keeping us safe in Cameron Park at 2 AM.

3:58 AM: Hello, little skunk friend. Nothing to see here. No need to spray. We mean you no harm. We'll be on our way now. Ok thanks, bye.

4:30 AM: Finally finished with chalking, back to Ed's to help load up with the rest of StuFu's awesome members and our amazing volunteers. The sheer amount of STUFF we had to get from Ed's on 5th Street over to McLane is incredible. Over 100 coolers of water, hundreds of bottles of Gatorade, hundreds of muffins and cookies, signs, bins, boxes, medals, t-shirts, towels, more water, mile markers, cones, you name it, we moved it.

5:00 AM: Back at McLane to set up the Bag Drop tent which I was to be in charge of the rest of the day. How it works: you show up to the tent with a bag. You tell one of the volunteers at the tent your bib number, they write it on one of those paper wristbands and put it on your bag, then we put it in the appropriate bin for your bib number. 1-100, 101-200, etc. etc. BINS ON BINS ON BINS! We had a little over 2,000 runners registered for the race so yeah we had a lot of bins is what I'm saying. Shoutout to Hannah for helping me set up and actually holding down the tent for most of the day while I was away handling other situations.

5:25 AM: Time to set up barricades. Good God those things are heavy. But things gotta be blocked off so such is life.

5:45 AM: Hello runners who like to show up very early for races. Aren't you cold? Also I admire your bravery for running this ridiculous race. We're not quite done setting things up so just hang out for a bit. Or you can go sit in your car, I know I would, cause it's really freaking cold out here.

5:46 AM: More set up! Set up all the things! Move those towels, carry that Gatorade, display those muffins!

6:30 AM: Oh hey it's Kendall Briles!

7:00 AM: THE HALF MARATHON IS STARTING OH MY GOD I'VE WAITED SO LONG FOR THIS MOMENT!

7:20 AM: THE 5K IS STARTING OH MY GOD I'VE WAITED FOR SO LONG FOR THIS MOMENT!

7:27 AM: Well apparently the course was confusing and some of the 5kers took a right instead of a left at U Parks and did it backwards. Oops. We'll send some volunteers out there to point the remaining 5kers in the right direction.

7:36 AM: Oh our first finisher is already done with the 5K? Oh he's not that tired? Oh he's just gonna run it again for fun? You do you man.

8:16 AM: HOW ARE YOU FINISHED WITH THE HALF MARATHON ALREADY? WHAT?

8:45 AM: Half Marathon finishers are starting to trickle in and I get to hand out medals!!!! Clearly I'm pumped about it!

9:30-ish AM: Family members of Daniel Jones, a Bearathon runner who passed away mere feet from the finish line a few years ago, complete the race in his honor as they do each year.

Rest of the day: A lot more medals, no major crises, everyone finished the race, a lot of tear down and clean up, and dozens of boxes of left over pizza.

Summary:

The Bearathon isn't just a bunch of people running a ridiculous race just because. It's bigger than that. The Bearathon is Student Foundation's biggest fundraiser for student scholarships. Let that sink in. Students have put in countless hours for this race on behalf of other students. To make it possible for others to enjoy this amazing University we've all come to know and love with a little bit of financial relief.

As a Bearathon Chair, I can tell you firsthand that a lot of hard work goes into the event. Hours upon hours of work for months upon months. Since November I've been calling dozens of local businesses for sponsorship and donations, been told no dozens of times, trained and encouraged a group of 10 of my peers to do the same thing outside of their already busy schedules, sent hundreds of unanswered emails, spent countless hours in Bear Chair meetings, and had a whole lot of long days and even longer nights. And I got off easy compared to some of the other chairs I worked with and especially compared to our race directors. All of whom are students. None of which were paid for their time. But it was all worth it for this feeling. Every emergency meeting. Every box stacked. Every hour of sleep lost was worth it for this moment. This accomplishment. Sitting here having survived the journey and living to tell the tale. Everyone I worked with will tell you the exact same thing. I feel so proud knowing that people believed in me and I didn't let them down. I wanted to help accomplish something huge for a purpose greater than personal gain and I did it. We did it, and it feels so good.

It's really easy to get caught up in all that you've done and the sacrifices you've made and not stop to appreciate those around you who have each fought and won their own personal battles. That's where I was for a long time in regards to the Bearathon. I saw how much work the Bear Chairs and other StuFu members had put into it and what it would mean to us to put on a great event but I didn't see it from the other side. That was until I handed out a finisher medal for the first time. For the first time I realized that the feeling of accomplishment I had felt wasn't exclusive. It was shared by the 2000+ people in attendance that day. A man who had trained for days, weeks, months to be able to finish this race had finally done so. He had just conquered the toughest half marathon in Texas and I could see all the work he had put in on his face. But something else too. That feeling I described earlier. The pride in pushing yourself past what you thought was possible, knowing that others believed in you and you didn't let them down, that you were a part of something larger than yourself, etc. And here I was with nothing tangible to give him for it other than a medallion and a hardy "great job!" But that medallion is not what this was about. It's a symbol of the fact that we both had won our own victories. Separately, but definitely not independently. Me by helping to coordinate this race, and him by running it.  If you've never experienced one of these moments before, one of these large-scale mutual victories, I pray that you do at some point in your life. I could never type words into this browser that will ever do it justice. I don't know that anyone can. But what I do know is that I can't wait to do it all over again next year.