The morning dawned sunny and clear. Oh wait, this isn’t a fairy tale, it is a factual account of the Baylor Bearathon; 13.1 of the toughest miles to run in all of Texas! It was chilly and raining but our daughter attends Baylor University and this race helps fund their scholarship programs, two really good reasons to run the “Toughest Half in Texas” no matter what the weather conditions. And tough it is, even without the added drama we experienced.
We live 1.5 hours away and despite our valiant efforts to make packet pick up Friday night, we didn’t. Saturday morning we arrived at packet pick up about 30 minutes before the gun sounded only to find a very long line moving at a snail’s pace. The longer we stood still the more frustrated I became. Finally, we had our packets but we still had to return to our vehicle and make our way to the start line. Considering the long line and the fact that others were in line behind us, we expected the race to start a bit late. Wrong. We arrived at the start line to find all the other half marathoners had not only started already but were gone! Vanished. No sign of them. Umm. What to do? We made our way through the 5Ker’s whose race had not started yet, crossed the start line and began running in what we hoped was the right direction.
At the first intersection, there were police to whom we hollered, “Half marathon this way?” I know they were thinking, “Idiots, you’re a little late,” but they graciously smiled, nodded and pointed. We just kept running in what we hoped was the right direction. My husband runs faster than I do and usually paces me for the first half until I set him free to run his own race, but there was no way that was going to happen under these circumstances. On my own, I would have likely ended up in Oklahoma! About a mile in we finally started to catch up with the stragglers and walkers. Little by little, we began passing other runners. About that time James warns, “We are at an 8:35 pace.” Which was code for, “slow down, we are running too fast for this distance.” At mile two he again tells me our pace is 8:35 and adds, “We are going to burn out.” Surrounded by other runners, we eventually settle into a comfortable half marathon pace and he leaves me.
The hills. Oh my. The hills. The elevation begins at 375 feet with the highest elevation during the race at 548 feet. There are three hills to navigate with an average elevation of 530 feet. Now do you see why it’s called the “Toughest half in Texas?” Ironically, despite the fact that I have run dozens of half marathons before, I felt the best trained for this one, probably because I’m in training for a full marathon so I am logging a few more miles than usual, and our training route has some hills. I was surprised that climbing the hills barely affected me; my muscles didn’t burn nor did my breathing grow labored.
The finish is brutal, the race ends at McClain Stadium, but you cannot just run towards it, you have to run past it, wind around, then cross an uphill bridge to reach it. Awful. And, the wind was blowing in my face, which made my finish line sprint a bit tough. After I crossed, I could not even celebrate because the weather had caused my Garmin to stall and not calibrate correctly. According to it I had only run about 12 miles. Since we had started late the clock showed me at 2:09 but I knew my chip time would be better.
We stood around wet, cold and shivering, waiting for the official race results. The 2:02 PR for me and 1:56 PR for James were definitely worth all the wait and drama we’d endured to get there. As we crossed the bridge heading back to our vehicle, I could not help but smile at the hundreds of runners still racing for the finish, runners who had all started about seven minutes ahead of us. I suppose that is what happens when one “runs with purpose.” See you on the course next year!
Becky J Miller
P.S. Remember to pray & support me and the Links team running for missions a the 2015 Virgin Money London Marathon.