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Bearathon off to a promising start

March 4, 2003

By Matthew Robinson

The skies promised rain Saturday for Bearathon participants, but it could not dim the excitement that students, faculty and members of the Waco community had during the race.

Experienced or not, most runners thought the race was a success.

'I think it was exceptionally well organized, very well planned and extremely well executed,' said Jerome Loughridge, chief of staff to President Robert B. Sloan Jr.

The Bearathon, which was organized this year to let more people participate than Bear Downs had in past years, had 138 runners finish the challenging course.

Forty-four students and faculty participated in Bear Downs, so organizers thought the increased number was a marked improvement.

The Bearathon mostly included runners who had registered as individuals even though Student Foundation offered a $10 discount to those that registered as groups. Baylor Air Force ROTC and a women's team were the only groups to sign up, but the water stations were run by different groups such as Phi Kappa Chi and Kappa Sigma fraternities.

It was Student Foundation's first time to put on a half-marathon.

'I researched a lot of other marathons to see how they organized, planned and executed their events and used what was best for this race,' Robin Dusek, director of Student Foundation, said.

Student Foundation had to work with the city to approve the running course. They also had to pay police officers to monitor traffic at the intersections, make sure paramedics were available in case of any medical difficulties and borrow hundreds of traffic cones to mark out the course.

Student Foundation members said their hard work paid off because they encountered no difficulties.

'All the [water] stations worked well,' Dusek said. 'Everyone said that all the volunteers were very energetic.'

Many of the students were familiar with other runners and those at the water stations, so there was a lot of excitement and energy throughout the race. Bystanders cheered on the runners as they passed through checkpoints.

At several points the course doublebacked, so participants were able to see friends who offered encouraging words.

'It was a great opportunity for Baylor students to support the school,' Rene Rodriguez, a Midland junior, said.

Although there was some complaining about the difficulty of the course, which snaked through Cameron Park and covered about 15 difficult hills, many saw it as a challenge in a beautiful setting.

'It was an exceptionally difficult course, but it was pretty to look at,' Loughridge said.

Some of the participants trained in advance on the course to prepare for it.

'We [ROTC] had trained on the course and thought it was a great route,' Rodriguez said.

Some individuals from the Waco community also participated in Bearathon.

Kelly Jo Gilliland, who placed first in the women's open division, has run more than 10 half-marathons and eight marathons. She thought the race was well organized and covered a good course.

'My legs were hammered, and I could barely walk the last couple of days, but the course itself was awesome,' Gilliland said.

The only criticism of the race was that outside Baylor there was not much publicity. Gilliland said she found out through a friend who had a contact at Baylor and then told more of her friends. The event's organizers hope to correct this problem as Bearathon in the future.

'It'll grow because it's well conceived and well executed,' Loughridge said. 'It was a wonderful experience.'