Entering its eighth year, The Running with the Bears Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10K race Aug. 18 in Greenville is set to raise nearly $60,000 for children and youth in foster care.
In 2012, this race became a Boston Marathon qualifier and has since attracted runners from all over the world in their quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon cutoff by early September. This year, the race welcomes athletes from Russia, England and China.
“From the beginning, my hopes and dreams for this race was to bring the best experience a runner could possibly have,” stated founder and executive director of Mountain Circle Family Services, Inc., Dr. Shauna Rossington.
The run offers a division for Charity Runners who are participants agreeing to raise a minimum of $700 for the cause. The perks of this division include a goody bag filled with gourmet foods and specialty running apparel, a custom lightweight running jacket, a 20-ounce tumbler and the knowledge that their running is making a difference for some of the 58,000 children in foster care in California.
“What makes this event so unique,” said Race Director Josie Litchfield, “is that it is managed entirely by the charity it benefits, Mountain Circle Family Services, Inc.” Proceeds provide the means for 30 foster teens to participate in the PowderQuest Program, an outdoor leadership program for older foster youth.
“As runners complete the course, they get to meet the same foster families and teens that their entry fee supports. In a small race, you can see how running can make a direct impact on these kids’ lives; it’s powerful” said one charity runner from 2017.
Recently, Running with the Bears attracted national attention, becoming a featured race in Runner’s World, Marathon and Beyond and Competitor Magazines. These magazines are three of the most read runner magazines in the country and normally feature much larger events. The Indian Valley run is one of the smallest Boston Qualifiers in the country, with 600 competitors total and about 100 of those competing to earn a spot at the Boston Marathon.
Two catered events take place each year: the pasta feed and the post-race party. The pasta feed is held Friday, Aug. 17, and will feature Greenville High School’s culinary arts teacher Judy Dolphin and her culinary students. Dolphin and her students often provide delicious food for various local events. Vegetarian options are available.
Baja Fresh reached out to event organizers asking to cater the after party event Saturday, Aug. 18. “Of course, we were overjoyed by their request!” said Rossington. Both of these events are open to the public.
Runners are treated to the beautiful surroundings of Indian Valley and greeted along the course by local charitable groups. The groups are competing to win the runners’ votes in the areas of best theme, best food, and best spirit, in the hopes of winning a potential total of $3,000. Motivational signs and interesting factoids about bears and local frontier history are placed along every mile.
The Running with the Bears marathon provides a unique scenic display that can distract athletes from some of the pain running 26 miles might bring.
“Running with the Bears headquarters receives several phone calls a year genuinely concerned about the bears. The truth, however, is that these bears are more afraid of our runners than anything.” said Rossington.
Last year, a runner finally saw a bear and actually got a picture of the cub running across the road. As promised by the race directors, the black bear was indeed more afraid of him and promptly ran in the other direction.
“Considering roughly 200 people live along the set course, race day is the biggest event these bears have ever seen and they head for the hills,” said Rossington.
At the finish linerunners are treated to a cold beverage and a giant polar bear ice plunge if they so choose. Childcare is available, as is shopping at a pop-up running store on the site. Race organizers say their motto is, “We don’t race by the same rules.”
“Logistically, this is a pretty tough race to put on,” stated organizers. “There is a reason you do not find Boston Qualifiers in small rural towns, but we know this is what makes this race very unique. We built the type of race we would want to run in ourselves; where our kids can have a good time, where we can run alongside our dogs and where there is a great view at the finish line,” said Litchfield.
This event also provides resources to other programs such as foster parent training, camp tuition and new school clothes for foster children. Last year, Running with the Bears gathered over $50,000. This year, they hope to raise at least $60,000.
The event takes place Saturday, Aug. 18. Those interested in participating as charity runners or volunteering can get more information at runningwiththebears.org.