Local man will be race director for Texas ranch marathon

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bryce Gaudian of rural Hayward has been tapped as the race director for the Headwaters of the Frio Marathon/Half Marathon on April 7, 2018, on the 7,050-acre Big Springs Ranch for Children near Leakey, Texas, according to a press release.

The inaugural trail run/walk is a fundraiser for sister ranches Hill Country Youth Ranch in Ingram, Texas, and Big Springs Ranch for Children.

The ranches are home to abused, abandoned and severely traumatized children. Since the founding of the ranches 40 years ago, nearly 2,000 children have benefited from the safe and loving environment and have experienced true compassion, peace, hope, love and restoration, according to the press release.

Gaudian learned about the ranches in early 2014 when he was choosing a nonprofit charity for his annual grassroots fundraiser. Over the next 2 1/2 years, he would go on to accomplish four separate UltraHikes, covering 196 miles and raising enough funds to accomplish 40 dream list projects or enhancements at the ranches.

Through Gaudian’s hikes, a deep bond developed between Gaudian and Gary Priour, the founder of the ranches, along with staff, volunteers and the children themselves, ranging in age from 7 to 18.

Tim Campbell, chief development officer at Hill Country Youth Ranch, came up with the idea of a marathon/half marathon at Big Springs Ranch for Children. The historic ranch was donated for the express purpose of being an epicenter of compassion toward abandoned and abused children by Oma Bell Perry, the great grandniece of Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.”

Big Springs Ranch’s nickname is “Country of 1,100 springs.” On its property, the Frio River has its very beginning at Big Springs, thus the name chosen for the Headwaters of the Frio Marathon/Half Marathon.

Gaudian, who has run 17 marathons and over 50 other races, said he knew what he was looking for as far as a course through the historic ranch. In early April, Gaudian spent five days walking a total of 82 miles throughout the ranch, mapping out the course for the 26.2 mile marathon. He said the course has it all — epic vistas, gorgeous Texas hill country scenery, valleys, hills, cliffs, canyons, amazing wildlife, birds, plants and wildflowers.

Highlights of the trail include an intact 1800s pioneer farm site, the headwaters of the Frio River at Big Springs, multiple river crossings, Texas longhorn and horse pastures, a dry creek bed containing dozens of dinosaur tracks, stunning vistas looking back over 10 miles of the route and a finish line in the heart of the ranch at the entrance to the prayer garden, according to Gaudian.

The family friendly event has no entry fee, however, a fundraising minimum for the benefit of the ranches has been set for individuals or teams of two or more for either the full or half marathon. The field will be capped at the first 150 people to register, and participants can choose from the participation categories of marathon runner, marathon walker, half marathon runner or half marathon walker. After signing up as an individual, participants are welcome to form a team with a group if they want to run/walk the course with others or compete for the team fundraising prize.

There is an official website for registration at headwaters.greatfeats.com to sign up and for all the information participants will need. Free camping is available, and there will be free Texas barbecue on April 6.

T-shirts will be given to all entrants. The race’s start time is 7:15 a.m. April 7. Runners/walkers will be given 11 hours to finish. Custom-made medals  will be given to all finishers of the marathon and half marathon, and there will be a free dinner for all on the evening of April 7 during the awards ceremony and post-race party.

There will be a worship service at the Big Springs Ranch chapel and horseback trail rides in the late morning/early afternoon on April 8. There will be many activities and opportunities for participants’ families during and after the event.

“This is one of the most worthy nonprofit organizations I’ve ever become aware of,” Gaudian said. “Please join us for this inaugural run/walk event next April 7th.”

Big Springs Ranch for Children is located approximately two hours from the San Antonio Texas International Airport, off Highway 83 near Leakey, Texas.

Gaudian can be contacted at bryce.gaudian@gmail.com for more information.