In my opinion, runners have a desire to learn everything they possibly can when it comes to entering a race. We love elevation maps, pictures of race courses, the views we’ll be seeing, if GPS will pick up the signal, anything local that’s unique, how many and where the port a potty’s are (that one might just be me??), if the race is chip timed, what’s in the swag bags, how much food will there be AT NO CHARGE after the race, if there’s coffee anywhere, etc…. Also, we want to know what makes a race different – why should we pay to sign up. Yes, you may think me biased as I work for Mountain Circle Family Services, however it did not start out that way. Long ago, I too found Running With The Bears after stumbling on a booth at packet pickup for a different race…. I did what all curious, excited, daredevil, bear running runners do when I heard about the race – I signed myself up!!!
That first year of relative ignorance about how unique Running With The Bears is taught me a few things. I should have learned MORE about the area, the race, the people. It also made certain I would return every year. I knew without question that I would always show up Friday for the pasta feed and stay for the hoe down Saturday night post race. It became a weekend event. So for you first timers, or for those of you who have been but want MORE out of the experience, I’m here to tell the tale. Running With The Bears is truly a unique race. For starters, the men and women who run the race are the same people that work at Mountain Circle Family Services placing hundreds of children in foster homes in California and Nevada. And you get to see that the money really does go right back to those kiddos. We like to get to know our runners and let them get to know us. Yes, we’d love to take a selfie with you and yes you can ask questions and chat. If we’re busy, we’ll just politely ask you to hang on a second. We hug, we cheer, we are so glad you came.
Now for the race – that very morning you will find us moving cows out of pasture so racers can park. Parking is indeed free and so are the cow patties you have to leap frog over. Very quaint, very down home. I thought it was incredibly cool that first year. Kind of like – “Hey, we want to put on this race but we don’t have a parking lot….. I have an idea!!! Let’s move the cows!!” That pasture is available directly across from the start/finish and also the home of Kevin and Shalyn Goss, who donate the use of their yard to Running With The Bears for the race as well as the hoedown later. Awesome people. Seek them out and say hello – they’re genuinely glad you’re visiting them! Kevin and his team of helpers will be getting pigs ready to roast for the hoe down later. He’s easy to spot and I have a picture of myself with him every year.
You’ve parked, you’ve said hello to the Goss’, you’ve found the port a potties, you’ve met some of the staff. Here’s where you realize that not only is the race chip timed but it’s being run the same way very large races are run. “Groovy”, you think. “These folks are on the ball”. Indeed they are. And you take off. You already know you’ve stepped into God’s country. When you were driving here you felt yourself relax – fresh air, trees, being surrounded by beauty and good people. Running through the area is one of the best experiences you’ll have. I can assure you, the mile markers will be dead on. Keep checking your GPS. You will most likely do what I did that first year. Shake your head and say “Wow. Spot on”. You’ll quickly notice all the signs with information. Famous people who were adopted, information about bears, fun facts. It keeps your mind off any difficulties you may experience running because you know around the corner they’ll be something new to read. Very cool and extremely informative.
The main thing I can tell you that you about this race is that the sounds will be different. One year some of the ranches were branding animals. Unique sound and you may even get a whiff of something you can’t place. That will be it. Ranchers have to do their thing regardless of the race. My first year I heard a noise I couldn’t pinpoint for about a quarter mile. Once I got close enough I realized the bizarre sound I was hearing was a goat farm…. And I giggled ridiculously. Last year there was a runaway goat at mile 7.5 ish… He was brought to the finish, put on a leash and waited there with everyone until the owner came to get him. No big deal. Dogs sometimes run out towards you fast but since they’re farm dogs, they stop at the end of the driveway to just watch the runners. Initially that freaked me out just a little. There are also runners that bring their dogs to race with them. This is very different from other races where there’s 25,000 of your best friends, all in corrals based on your finishing time, starting in waves, etc….
There’s so much that makes this event truly special! Mostly, once you get past the differences in atmosphere, relax, and enjoy your race, you realize – like I did – that it’s the people that make this race so remarkable.