The California Classic Weekend traditionally was a full weekend of fitness events in the month of May starting with a cycling event on Saturday and running events on Sunday. Fairly new to running, I had only started running races 6 months earlier, I registered for the Inaugural California Classic Half Marathon in 2011. I was excited about this race because it ran through the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and finished on the field at Chukchansi Park, home of the Fresno Grizzlies.
I would miss the 2012 California Classic Weekend.
Having had so much fun at the Inaugural California Classic Weekend, I would return in 2013. Unknown to me at the time, there were a group of local runners also running. I would later come to know them as the Bad News Bears Runners. The course was a little different, but we still ran through the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and ended on the field at Chukchansi Park.
The California Classic Weekend would change in 2014. The half marathon would be moved up on the calendar by two months because of complaints of hot weather. The cycling event would remain in May.
Due to the change in the California Classic Half Marathon, the date landed between two other half marathons I was already registered for. In only 16 days I would run 3 half marathons, the Lucky Race, California Classic, and at the Modesto Marathon. Needless to say, I was tired.
Like usual, I would post photos before, during and after races. One of those photos was of the three medals I earned running the California Classic Half Marathons. That is when they found me, like a bear cub lost in the woods.
On Instagram, the BNB Runners commented, “We have ’12, ’13, ’14! This year was the best.” Naturally, I clicked on the profile and find out more about them. They looked like a really fun group of runners.
It would be a few months before our paths would cross again. This time it would be at the Inaugural Merco Credit Union Half Marathon in Merced, California.
Leading up to this race I was sick, but I refused to let that stop me from running. We arrived at UC Merced, the start and finish of the race, just as the sun began to peak over the buildings. It was a cool morning, but that quickly changed. The sun’s rays and the heat could be felt shortly after the start of the race.
At roughly mile 3, I look over and see a couple of women running with BNB Runners shirts. I politely ask if they are the same BNB Runners as on Instagram. They were and I introduced myself. Because they were on my left, they could not see my camera and asked where it was. I held it up and to their surprise, it was a big camera. I run with an old Canon Digital Rebel XT.
While running together for the next few miles, I would give them a race tour and a little history of Merced and the surrounding areas. I pointed out the newly built El Capitan High School and the Bellevue Ranch development across the street. While running I was introduced to another BNB Runner, Stephanie. I did not want to hold them back so as we approached Merced College, I started to fall back. I would finish the race with my worst recorded time ever. However, being sick, I was happy to have just finished.
Two months later, I would run the most difficult race I have ever run. I ran the SAR Wild Run half marathon at Shaver Lake. I was in no way prepared for this race. The course was along trails and fire roads. At roughly 5,000 feet elevation, the air was thin. As I neared the end I could see the BNB Runners just past the finish. They yelled and screamed words of encouragement. As I crossed the finish, they would place the medal around my neck. It took me almost 4 hours (3:53:47) to complete.
Although I was already thought of as the BNB Runners’ Out of Town Member, I officially became a Bear on November 2, 2014 after completing my first marathon, the Two Cities Marathon. My “Big Bear” is Michelle, who is one of the founding members of the group and also known as “Mama Bear.”
And that is how I became a “Bear.”