By Joseph Pratt
Shawnee State University (SSU) hosted its Annual Fall Bear Run Wednesday evening, welcoming hundreds of runners of all ages, from senior participants to young elementary school students. The 41st Bear Run was speculated to have 600 runners all pushing themselves to cross the finish line of the 5k.
The many runners had a huge support network, from their fellow participants, to the event coordinators Eric Putnam and Jeff Hamilton, had Portsmouth Police escorting them along the way, and even Shawnee State President Dr. Rick Kurtz was present during registration to help the event start with a bang.
The program celebrated 20 years of running at the event. The run began in 1995, with only 200 registrants. Since then, the Bear Run has grown into one of the most iconic events in the community, attracting, sometimes, 900 walkers and runners.
The Bear Run is organized by SSU Track Coach Eric Putnam, who has also participated in and won many of the races.
Putnam said the race has grown exponentially in 20 years and he never expected it to become such a staple in the community. He said that he strives to keep the cost as low as possible, usually free, for participants, and the event brings in no money for the university or his program.
“We want to bring people to the campus, especially those within the ages of 15 to 18,” Putnam said. “We just want to show off how pretty the school is and get these students on campus. We do it, in part, as a recruitment tool, but also as a way to bring an affordable and competitive 5k to the community.”
One of the newer faces of the 5k this year was Shawnee State University freshman Olivia Pennington.
“I am joining the Bear Run for the first time this year, because I am working on getting into better shape,” Pennington said. “It is an awesome event and I am thankful that my school hosts something like this for free to students. It is great to see the school promoting good physical health.”
Pennington is studying physical therapy and says she appreciates seeing events like this offered to the community.
Most participants were returning runners, however. One of the alumna runners included Wheelersburg’s Darlene Ruby, who has been running for five years and has 10 Bear Runs under her belt. Ruby spends time between the Bear Runs bettering herself through CrossFit.
“It is just fun to do. Everyone is so helpful and they push you along, all while also cheering you on,” Ruby said. “The Bear Run is probably better than any other 5k in the area. The people are great, there is beautiful scenery along the river, and it is always so much fun.”
The event would not be possible without the tireless efforts of Putnam and the support of SSU Athletic Director Jeff Hamilton.
“I think it is a great event, not only for Shawnee State, but for Scioto County and Portsmouth,” Hamilton said. “We always have so many local cross country and track teams participating. We are always excited to have such a large group of people coming together on campus and in the community.”
Hamilton went on to discuss the variety of participants they have at each run.
“The run really brings people together. My daughter is three and she participated in it this year,” Hamilton explained. “On the other end, we have some people in their 70’s who will cross the finish. The people who participate are all promoting health awareness and it doesn’t matter what their age or background is.”
The Shawnee State University Bear Run will continue in the spring.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.
600 runners participated in the Bear Run this past Wednesday .
600 runners participated in the Bear Run this past Wednesday.