Get Involved With the BCS Marathon + Half Marathon

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Groups are encouraged to volunteer as Cheering Stations along the course at this year's BCS Marathon, ranked one of the top marathons in Texas after its first year. New is a Kids Marathon the day before.Look at your mental picture of a marathon runner: is it a college age sylph with a high pony or a hard body twenty-year-old dude running for the beer after the race? You need to get a new picture. “Most people would be surprised to learn that when the expected 3,000+ runners line up at the start of the Scott& White Healthcare BCS Marathon + Half Marathon, the average runner is a 32-year-old mother with a couple of children who has never done sports competitively,” says race director Chris Field.

With 2,350 runners already registered for the December 9 marathon and half marathon, the single largest demographic by far is women age 30-39. Men comprise 55 percent of the marathon registrants; women are dominating the half marathon at 68 percent. Why does it matter? Because regardless of your age or fitness background, whether you are in the race or cheering runners somewhere along the course, “everybody who goes to a marathon is inspired,” says Field. Inspiration could easily be the BCS Marathon’s theme.

Groups are encouraged to volunteer as Cheering Stations along the course at this year’s BCS Marathon, ranked one of the top marathons in Texas after its first year. New is a Kids Marathon the day before.Look at your mental picture of a marathon runner: is it a college age sylph with a high pony or a hard body twenty-year-old dude running for the beer after the race? You need to get a new picture. “Most people would be surprised to learn that when the expected 3,000+ runners line up at the start of the Scott& White Healthcare BCS Marathon + Half Marathon, the average runner is a 32-year-old mother with a couple of children who has never done sports competitively,” says race director Chris Field.

With 2,350 runners already registered for the December 9 marathon and half marathon, the single largest demographic by far is women age 30-39. Men comprise 55 percent of the marathon registrants; women are dominating the half marathon at 68 percent. Why does it matter? Because regardless of your age or fitness background, whether you are in the race or cheering runners somewhere along the course, “everybody who goes to a marathon is inspired,” says Field. Inspiration could easily be the BCS Marathon’s theme.

 Inspiring Fitness

 “When we announced [the first BCS Marathon] in summer 2011, we knew of one local running club that had about 25 members,” says Field. “A year later after the success of the first marathon, eight running clubs have formed and the original club has tripled in size and has about 75 members. Every trainer in town has watched this trend and has started a running club because clients demand it because of the race.”

 Inspiring Families

 “This year, we’ve added a kids marathon presented by Scott & White Healthcare,” says Field. “It started because Dr. Eddie Coulson, superintendent of CSISD, ran his first half marathon last year. We set up a meeting about a kids marathon; he was seeing families and kids running together. We wanted to give them an outlet for that.”

 From that meeting, Field met with Dr. Tommy Wallis, BISD superintendent, and the result has been to bring a running program into every single elementary school in Bryan and College Station. The goal of the Kids Marathon is to get the 13,000 elementary school age children across B/CS running and living a healthy lifestyle. This will culminate in the 1.2-mile Kids Marathon the day before the big races. There is even a training tracker PDF that kids and parents can download from the BCSMarathon.com website. “The goal was for kids to be active during fall with the cherry on top being running the 1.2 miles of trails of Wolf Pen Creek on the day of the Kids Marathon so parents can cheer on their kids,” explains Field.

 Inspiring to Give Back

 “The heart of whole race came out of Mercy Project’s need to raise money,” says Field of the nonprofit he founded with his wife Stacey to end child slavery in Ghana, Africa. Based in Bryan/College Station, Mercy Project works to create economic development projects in villages and communities in Ghana where an estimated 7,000 children work as modern day slaves. In addition to raising funds for Mercy Project, the BCS Marathon + Half Marathon has designated other local charities to receive funds.

Last year, the $72,000 that the marathon raised was evenly split between Mercy Project and Still Creek Ranch, a Bryan nonprofit that provides a stable home environment and education for children and teens. This year, three charities will receive funds: the Mercy Project, S.O.S. (Save Our Streets) Ministries and the Down Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley.

Field says that S.O.S. Ministries and the Down Syndrome Association will receive up to $25,000 each, with remaining funds going to The Mercy Project. “We don’t look at this as a charity event,” says Field. “It’s a first class race that also raises money for charity, but our whole motivation in putting on this race is raising money for charity – local charities– from The Mercy Project, which is based here, to the Down Syndrome Association and S.O.S. Ministries.”

He stresses that 100 percent of the race profits go to charity noting that everyone working on BCS Marathon is an unpaid volunteer.“Mercy Project pays its employees’ salary, but they get nothing extra for doing marathon, from the time put in by our 12-person committee to the several thousand hours [to be race director], no one gets paid for putting on the marathon – 100 percent goes to charities.”

Inspire Civic Pride

Outside the running community, “I’m not sure people grasp how significant this is,” says Field. “We have runners from 27 states registered. Name another event outside Aggie football that brings that many people to town from other states. Bryan/College Station has a world-class marathon” beating out the more established 15-20 marathons around the state to be rated by runners the top marathon in Texas on the independent running site marathonguide.com. Giving runners a top race is about more than prestige; it’s direct economic impact. As BCS Marathon’s host hotel, the Hilton has been sold out the night before the race for months. With last year’s race capped at 1,500 runners, the economic impact was estimated at $400,000. With this year’s expected 3,000 runners, the estimated impact is $750,000.

 

Inspiring People to Get Involved

 “It’s a big need,” says Field, who is looking for enough volunteers for a ratio of one volunteer for every six runners on course. That’s as many as 500 volunteers on race day alone. From 75-100 volunteers are needed to be Course Marshals, people stationed around the course to keep track of the safety of runners. “Our eyes and ears on the course,” explains Field.

The easiest and most fun way to volunteer may be to sign up as a Cheering Station – groups strategically placed on the course where it’s challenging or it gets lonely to be a runner, there to motivate the runners to stay the distance.

Who can be a Cheering Station? Anybody, say Field, from groups of five and up, civic groups like Rotary or Lions Club; Girl or Boy Scout troops; Sunday School classes; office groups, Bunco groups … any group that wants to inspire runners who have stepped up the challenge of running a marathon or half marathon.

“The race starts at 7 a.m. with the last finishers at 1:30 p.m. We want to take these people and give them creative license to have fun– costumes, music, instruments, whatever,” says Field of the Cheering Station volunteers.

 Inspiration to Just Come Watch

 Just like the 80,000 fans who fill Texas A&M’s stadium on game days, Field wants to inspire the community to spend a few hours on December 9 cheering on all the runners in the BCS Marathon + Half Marathon, whether you know someone in the race or not.

 “There are 800,000 people along the course at the Houston marathon, two million in New York,” says Field. “This is an opportunity to show who we are as a city– friendly, supportive. It’s a chance to say thank you for coming to our city to so many out-of-towners and just open up the door on our hospitality and show them what we already know: B/CS has the nicest folks you’ve ever met.” There a bonus for anyone who pulls up a chair, maybe before or after church Sunday, December 9, anywhere along the race route even if for just a half hour to cheer people who have stepped up to meet a fitness challenge.

“I have never met anybody who has come out and watched a marathon who has not been inspired,” say Field. “Lots of people are surprised in some ways because of preconceived notions every runner is super fit. That’s not the trend. Seeing lots of runners who look like you going 13 or 26 miles is motivating and inspiring. People think, ‘I can start working on being more fit.’”

-Angelique Gammon