Camp War Eagle Parent Run marks 20th year

Published: June 20, 2017
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Doug Hankes, director of Student Counseling Services, had no idea that his joke 20 years ago about a running tour of Auburn University would become a reality. 

Hankes and his wife moved back to Auburn in 1998 when they both were hired by the university. The two met as undergraduates at Auburn University, and after being away for about 10 years, decided it was time to come back.

"When we got back on campus the counseling center was working with Camp War Eagle, and that's when I talked to Mark Armstrong, the director of First Year Experience," said Hankes. "At the time I think they had bus tours and walking tours, and I half-jokingly said to him, 'What if we do a running tour.' He said, 'You can do it if you want but nobody's ever going to show up.'"

So Hankes decided he would try it out, beginning what is now known as the Camp War Eagle Parent Run.

"We started out really informally. I just had a little Aubie sign that said 'Camp War Eagle Parent Run' on it when the parents would sign in at the conference center, because at the time most of the Camp War Eagle sessions were at the conference center," said Hankes.

Hankes said that in the first few years, he would meet parents who showed up in the lobby and would go for a 3 to 3.5 mile running tour of campus.

"That was 20 years ago so I was in better shape and could run as fast as the parents would want to go, but we would all stay together in a group and just run and talk," said Hankes.

Now in its 20th year, Hankes said he has participated in the run almost 158 times. Over the years, the number of participants has significantly increased.

"Back when it started, there were a couple of times that two or three parents would show up," said Hankes.  "It wasn't in the Camp War Eagle program and it didn't get mentioned so all they would see is that little Aubie sign that would prompt them."

"Now it just depends," he said. "A small group would be about 10 parents, and a couple of times we've had as many as 50, but 50 is pretty unusual. I'd say 20 parents is the average."

The route has changed over the years partly due to construction, but for the past couple of years, it has started on the Haley Concourse outside of Starbucks and has covered areas around the Chemistry Building; Gorrie Hall; the Memorial Garden; the President's Mansion; the Donald E. Davis Arboretum; the Auburn University Medical Clinic; Plainsman Park; Jordan-Hare Stadium; Auburn Arena; the Wellness Center; the Village and the Hill residence halls; Haley Center and the engineering concourse.

"It's a good route because we don't have to deal with too much traffic, and the parents get to see places like the Memorial Garden and the arboretum that they normally wouldn't see," Hankes said.

When the run began 20 years ago, Hankes was the only leader. However, over the years many faculty and staff have joined in to help out.

"Before, it was just me and we would all run together at the pace of the slowest parent, which varied," said Hankes.  "Over the years there were a number of people who started helping me, and as we had more people showing up, it was harder to keep people together. Now we have four to five people who consistently show up who run different paces, so we can spread ourselves out and parents can run different paces. Some choose to run by themselves, some will run with another parent and some will run with another staff member or me."

For Hankes, who spends the majority of his workday around students, the most enjoyable part of the run is getting face time with parents.

"The ones who do it are just so appreciative, and it's just the whole Auburn Family that's so nice," he said. "Over the years we've started to have parents who have multiple children come to Auburn and have run every time, so that's fun to see them."

Hankes has run in every Camp War Eagle Parent Run, even the ones when he physically was not there.

"Three years ago I thought I was going to miss the entire summer after my son graduated from college," Hankes said.  "So Eric Smith [director of Health Promotions and Wellness Initiatives] said, 'I'll take care of it and do the run while you're gone.' So they put my face on a stick and ran with it during the parent run so it would still be 'Running with Dr. Doug.'"  

Although the parent run is not his full-time position at Auburn, it is something he thinks he will be remembered by.

"We joke around that if I have any kind of legacy, this parent run will be the thing a lot of folks will remember," Hankes said.

"People have asked if I'll keep doing it after I retire from the university, but I don't really know because I never even thought I'd get to the point where I'd retire," he said laughingly.

Hankes said he hopes the run continues for years to come.