The fifth annual Bear Creek Nature Center Bear Run returns on Saturday, Nov. 9, for a day of running, yoga, bear-costume contests, and more.

The race starts at 10 a.m., but participants are encouraged to arrive early for a variety of pre-race activities. The race includes a 5K and 3K course, and participants can run or walk at their own pace. Before taking to the trails, early birds can enjoy a yoga session, costume contest, music, and bear-themed face painting.

The best part? Every registered participant is provided with a lightweight bear suit. Past participants can reuse theirs from previous years or bring their own to register at a discounted rate.

“It’s so fun for us to see families coming out and doing it together,” said Mary Jo Lewis, the Bear Creek Nature Center supervisor. “It’s just a wonderful community event.”

Before the Bear Run was created, the Bear Creek Nature Center was looking for unique ways to fundraise for its programming. Throughout Colorado runners can fun unique races, and the costumed race was the nature center’s own spin.

“We know that Colorado is a place where people really like to be outdoors — they like to run and they like things that are quirky,” Lewis said. “It was like a combination of all those things. We’re a wonderful habitat for black bears, so the Bear Run is just an absolutely perfect fit.”

The costume contest is many participants’ favorite part of the event, Lewis noted. People get creative, and Lewis has seen everything, from a family of “Star Wars” bears to a group of Charmin bears carrying toilet paper down the trail.

“People get really into it,” Lewis said. “And I think people just enjoy the camaraderie of coming out here together all dressed as bears.”

Initiated in 2015, the Bear Run continues to grow and attract people from around the region, Denver and few from different states, including at least one runner from Wisconsin. Last year, the event attracted 200 participants, and Lewis is anticipating a higher turnout this time around.

“Last year, we did run out of adult costumes a couple days before the run,” she said. “So if people are interested, they definitely want to register ahead.”

Patti Anderson, a Parker resident who attended the event with her husband and three children last year, is looking forward to returning.

“How many times do you get to see hundreds of bears running and not have to run in the opposite direction?” she said. “It’s a cool and different experience, and definitely something everyone should see.”

Anderson said her kids’ favorite part was the morning yoga, led by event sponsor Omtastic Yoga. Focusing on sharing yoga for children and families, the professional instructors will teach a class inside the Nature Center, surrounded by scenic wooded views.

After yoga, “bears” will take to the Bear Creek Nature Center trail and follow a scenic route through golden meadows and alongside a mountainside stream.

“It truly is a trail fun run — there are uphills and downhills, and you run along Bear Creek,” Lewis said. “There’s nothing monotonous about this course.”

After the run, participants can head to the Black Bear Diner on Garden of the Gods Road for a free entrée — only if they’re still dressed as bears.

Proceeds from the event go toward the Friends of El Paso County Nature Centers nonprofit. The organization provides funding for Bear Creek and Fountain Nature Centers to offer affordable programming for kids and adults.

“We are really proud of the fact that we are free and open to the public,” Lewis said. “It’s a great resource for our community that we have here.”

She added, “How can you not have a great time when you’re looking around and see 200 other bears all ready to hit the trails?”

Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to register ahead of race day to ensure they secure a bear suit. Register online at elpasoco.com/bearrun.

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