Are you tempted by bottomless blue bell ice cream and the scenic rolling hills of east Texas? Us too! For 45 years now, Blue Bell has partnered with Brenham High School to put on the Blue Bell Fun Run each spring. This community driven event touts its beautiful Texas wildflowers and a whole lot of ice cream at the finish line.
It has been on our radar for a long time, as my spouse / occasional running partner has yet to go check out the Texas treasure of Blue Bell. We are slowly starting to train for our upcoming half marathon Napa to Sonoma and Blue Bell served as a good trial run on some hilly terrain we wouldn’t otherwise get in Dallas. I was expecting something similar to the Shiner Beer Run, a smaller East Texas race with a whole lot of spirit. What I didn’t realize was the cult following this race really has. It’s ~1 hour from Houston so you get many of those Houston area folks as well as the entire town of Brenham helps put the race on. It was a fun departure from the big city races like NYC Marathon or Dallas Half!
Here are the 10 things you should know before running The Blue Bell Fun Run:
1. It is really more like the Brenham High School race
The start line and finish line is at Brenham High School, and the Brenham HS Athletic Department is the beneficiary of the race proceeds. Blue Bell acts more like the headlining sponsor than the be all end all of the race itself. We could have figured that out by the race website, but for some reason we didn’t realize this is more like a well organized high school fundraiser than a Blue Bell driven event.
2. There are a lot of teenage volunteers
Since they are the main beneficiaries, all the teenagers are out volunteering either as parking attendants, packet pick up folks, course support, etc. Pack your patience. I am probably a diva at this point, having done New York City Marathon, Berlin Marathon and other large scale events, that I am out of touch with cute home town races. God bless them, but the teenage trolls in the parking lot were pointing in opposite directions and didn’t really know what was going on. Similar to packet pick up, just plan a little extra time to get sorted.
3. Blue Bell Factory is closed during the event
You also won’t see it when you’re on the course. Again, we could have 100% figured this out by looking at the race website, but whoops! Didn’t think to look. Blue Bell is a business after all, they have regular business hours and you can only get tours during the week anyways. A bit of a bummer, as my spouse wanted to actually check out the factory, but now we know for next time. Don’t count on the race being the way to actually see and visit the factory.
4. Ice Cream (Pops) are unlimited!
The Blue Bell truck did not disappoint – there were about 5 different pops and sandwiches to choose from at the finish line and you could hit up the truck as many times as your belly could handle. Don’t expect to get pints of ice cream upon finishing, but a hand-held ice cream is more convenient and hit the spot at the end.
5. Course is HILLY
Brenham is out in the countryside. There are rolling hills throughout the entire course, with only a few sprinklings of seemingly flat ground through the surrounding neighborhoods. It was not acutely painful until the very end, where the course finish is UP HILL! Dead. Mile 12 I was trucking up the largest hill of the entire course and how depressing is it to see people walking up such an extended length? I was on a mission to break the 2 Hour mark, so I was still ranging ~8min/mi up that terrible hill, but only by the grace of God and a lot of caffeine was I able to pull that off.
6. The Bluebonnets & Indian Paintbrushes are Amazing
I ran a sub-2 hour half marathon and that included my 30 second stop to take pictures of the fields of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. We get wildflowers a little later in the season in Dallas, so it was incredible to see them in their full beauty out on the course. It was ample entertainment for me to be on bluebonnet watch, finding patches here and there before seeing open fields of them later in the course.
7. The Community Support is great (and the price is right!)
There were adorable hand made signs throughout the course with all the ice cream puns to keep you entertained. The aid stations were great and well stocked, and there were periodic officers placed at important intersections. In the world of $80-120 priced half marathons (ouch) this race was much more affordable than any other options. Blue Bell must take on some of the cost to produce the race, so it is a great affordable option too.
8. Race Day Morning is a bit Crazy (Parking, Road Closures, Packet Pickup)
We should have planned ahead better here, but google maps took us straight into the road closures on race morning. It was stressful trying to find our way driving around in the darkness, so read and re-read the race website to understand where to park. The pro move is to park in the parking lot and jog it up the hill to the high school where packet pick up is, then jog it back to the car to drop off extra gear and shirts. You cannot drive to packet pick up, so you need to either send a delegate or make haste grabbing your bib and assembling your race outfit in the parking lot.
9. Don’t Expect to Win
This is a well attended race. If you expect to wing it onto your age group podium, you are quite wrong. It is a good crowd with a lot of Texas runners. It was my first race in the Women’s 30-34 age group (omg I’m an adult now) and I placed 5th of 31 runners. There were nearly 600 women running the half marathon, which is a HUGE field for a Brenham, TX race. You will see some speedy folks out there!
10. It is Not a Closed Course
Be smart, pay attention to traffic. This was particularly true in miles 7-11, where half marathoners were at the furthest points away from the start line and on those back country roads. There was one point where a runner near me was yelling “CAR BACK” and there was a doofus running on the wrong side with loud music in his earbuds, not noticing a massive Ford F150 behind him.
Bonus: Hit Snow’s BBQ in Lexington before you head home!
This was possibly the highlight of the day, going hard on a race then smashing some Snow’s BBQ. Snow’s is run by a 90 year old woman and has recently built more hype from their Netflix episode. When are you ever out in that area anyways? We took a 45min detour to get BBQ on our way back, and it is is only open on Saturdays anyways. There is nothing like free white claw as you wait in line for some spectacular BBQ.
Are you planning your next trip to Brenham soon?
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