Waco: Family remembers Bearathon runner who died during race

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If you ask just about anyone what the toughest part of Saturday's Bearathon was, chances are they said the Cameron Park hills.

However, if you ask Justin Gardiner and Alaina Sloan, they will have a different answer.

"The last 100 yards when you get to the end," said Gardiner.

"The last 100 yards for our family is extremely tough." said Sloan.

The annual event is dubbed the "toughest half-marathon in Texas," challenging runners while raising thousands of dollars for scholarships at Baylor University.

However, three years ago the race took a different meaning for Gardiner and Sloan.

In 2013 their cousin, Daniel Jones, died while running the race.

The Baylor University senior collapsed just 100 yards from the finish line.

His uncle, Dana Jones, got the call from the hospital.

"I couldn't process what she was saying, I couldn't fathom what was going on," said Jones.

"While I was in the process of writing [the hospital information] down, she says 'well I'm sorry, they just, they just came back and they said that he's passed."

An autopsy later revealed Jones died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease brought on by exercise-related stress.

Since that day in 2013, the family comes back to the Bearathon every year, running to remember all he was, and all he overcame.

"He was blind in his left eye, had a sleeping disorder, never knew his father, lost his mother when he was very young," said Dana Jones.

In the end, they want to honor his legacy. The memories of him still fresh with every step in the race.

"He was without a doubt the epitome of what it means to love people correctly," said Gardiner.

"We don't know what tomorrow brings...try to love like he did, love people like him, and live life to the fullest like he did, and tomorrow will take care of itself I guess."

Baylor University gave Daniel's family a posthumous degree and race organizers have welcomed the family back for the Bearathon every year since his death.