Today I ran the Bearathon Half Marathon for the first time… and they don’t call it the “Toughest Half in Texas” for nothing. The hills start around mile 3 and get increasingly steeper and more strenuous over the next 7 or so miles. After that you find yourself suddenly flat and sad that you were deprived of your great downhill into the last flat 3.5 miles of the run. I know many readers are probably shocked that there are hills in Texas, and while most of Texas is REALLY flat, Cameron Park in Waco is far from flat. Here is a photo of the beautiful cliffs in the park that over look the river.
So as you can see there is definitely some height there. And if you don’t train for the hills your legs are going to be in for a surprise like mine were. I knew about 2 of the hills but I didn’t expect another 6 miles of it beyond those, which meant it was definitely the most difficult course I’ve ever run. I’ve done 3 other distance races in Texas that have been in “hilly areas” and none of them have had any hills that have compared to this race so I think it’s a qualified nickname. It’s not all horrible though – some of the run is very beautiful and I saw a lot of places that I didn’t even know EXISTED in my city.
Overall I loved the vibe of the race! Despite a relatively small number of runners (1500 half, 800 5k runners) there were still A LOT of families, friends, and school organizations out on the course cheering people on, even between the aid stations which were at every mile. There aid stations were great, they had gels at miles 4, 6, and 10 I believe plus water and gatorade. I ran with Ben’s handheld water bottle because they were trying to encourage a cup free race and while I didn’t LOVE carrying the bottle at first I enjoyed being able to run around the stations and avoid the traffic of getting water. Most of the time the course was really wide and there was plenty of room at the start which is always nice.
Ben was my “fan club” at my race today and I saw him just after the start, mile 1, and then he filmed my sprint to the finish. The race is a little tricky to follow along with as a spectator because quite a few major roads do get shut down for the race making it difficult to beat the runner you want to watch at the race to your next location. But it was nice to run a race again where I saw someone I knew afterwards – it was sad to just kinda wander alone after my last half when I went by myself. Ben even let me give him a gross hug!
One of the coolest parts of the race was seeing so many friends and fellow musicians out on the course with me!!! There were quite of few of us running the race today (for some it was their first half) and we managed to get just some of us together for a picture!
DESPITE the hills from Hell, I managed to squeak by and run a PR of 2:13:30, beating my previous time by 56 seconds. While I would have loved to have shaved off more time, I realized pretty early on that the hills were against me and I just wanted to finish strong (and uninjured to be honest). If I had trained better geographically my increased speed might have helped me a little more, but now I know how to train for the Waco marathon and the Bearathon next year (I mean I can’t say no to a student discounted race entry!).
Mileage – 13.1, Yoga for Runner’s video (God help me), and slow painful foam rolling
QOD – Running is all about having the desire to train and persevere until every fiber in your legs, mind, and heart is turned to steel. And when you’ve finally forged hard enough, you will have become the best runner you can be. And that’s all that you can ask for. (Paul Maurer)