Last fall I was shopping for a Halloween Costume. I didn’t have a clue of what I wanted to be while looking in the Halloween store. Then I saw it, a “one size fits most” TED the bear costume. This is perfect. I can wear it for Halloween, and then I can wear it for running events as well.
I bought a shirt that said in big letters on the front – “Free Hugs Here”. I’ll give a free hug to everyone who wants one from the Bear. Even people that don’t want one.
The bear suit’s first race was the Hypothermic Half, it’s a 21km running event in Kamloops every February. Usually it’s cold, hence the “Hypothermic”. For 2015, it was not cold.
While changing in the parking lot for the event, my wife Juanita says to me, “No one is going to give you a hug.” When we went in to sign in and pick up our bibs, EVERYONE wanted a hug. And from then on, I called the new character “Hug-a-Bear”. People wanted pics with the bear, and people wanted their Free Hugs. It was truly fun. During the event, I hugged random people walking on the River’s trail, homeless people drinking booze in the park, I hugged spectators, racers and volunteers – You name it, they got a hug.
Running for 21km in the suit wasn’t actually too much fun though. Apparently when they made the suit, they didn’t think that someone would be dumb enough to wear it for a 21km run. The mask rubbed most of my nose off until it started bleeding, and I sweat about 10lbs of weight off. I also wore Grizzly bear slippers, which are hardly running shoes, they were hard on my feet.
I wore the suit again for a 5km run during the Boogie the Bridge last month. Giving out hugs as usual, it was so much fun. I ran with my children and it was much more fun doing only 5km this time instead of half a marathon.
Normally I push so hard during the races as I want to get my best time, or place on the podium if possible. Using the bear suit allows me to enjoy the run in a different way. Some kids positively light up when they get a hug from Hug-a-Bear.
It makes me smile and chuckle when I see them. I even smile in all the pictures, then realize I’m wearing a big furry mask, and you can’t see my face.