TASIS The American School in Switzerland’s 8th annual Beat the Bells Run will take place on Saturday, May 1, and will include a virtual component for members of the extended TASIS community who would like to take part from anywhere in the world.
In a normal year, “beating the bells” consists of a large pack of runners departing from TASIS at 6:15 AM, coasting down the hill to Lake Lugano, and attempting to finish the grueling uphill run back to campus before the Sant’Abbondio bells chime at 7:00 AM. The challenging course, which can be loaded into a runner’s preferred tracker or map service by using this GPX or KML file, is just under seven kilometers with an elevation change of 340 meters.
There will not be a group leaving together at 6:15 AM this year due to the current safety regulations in place, but those who are based in the Lugano area are more than welcome to complete the standard course on their own during any 45-minute window on May 1. Others are encouraged to join in the fun by simply running, biking, hiking, doing yoga, or completing any other 45-minute physical activity in the spirit of Beat the Bells on that day. To ensure that this important TASIS tradition remains a community-building event, participants can connect with others by doing any of the following:
- Share a photo or video clip of their activity with the TASIS Instagram page (@tasislugano).
- Post content on their own Instagram page and use the hashtag #TASISBeattheBells.
A similar model was put in place last year by TASIS College Counselor and Cross Country and Track Coach Greg Birk, who began developing the Beat the Bells tradition when he started at TASIS back in 2010. More than 50 students, alumni, and current and former faculty members representing countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia participated.
“It was super exciting last year to follow people—TASIS students, alumni, parents, former faculty, and friends—posting from around the world about their activities throughout the day,” said Mr. Birk, who has run more than 60 marathons and two ultramarathons over the past four decades. “My hope is for the live and virtual participation to continue to grow and grow and that the May 1 Beat the Bells tradition will continue forever—that it will be a shared experience for generations of TASIS community members.”
“Beat the Bells has always been a spontaneous and evolving event/tradition,” he explained. “Initially it was just about getting a group of students excited to get up and run with me before the start of classes. Making it down to the lake was important both to fully appreciate the early morning beauty of running the promenade along the lake but also for the challenge of running down and then back up to campus.”
Over time Mr. Birk was able to piece together a course that could be run safely in the dark and with sidewalks or pedestrian-only paths and limited street crossings, and it just happened to be the right distance to run comfortably down the hill and back up to campus in 45 minutes. It is a loop course that sends runners past the iconic Sant’Abbondio clock tower at the start and finish. “At times some of the runners would struggle on the uphill run back to campus,” said Mr. Birk. “I would try to motivate them to keep from stopping and walking by using beating the 7:00 bells as a motivation. It soon became our mantra—’Beat the Bells’—and then a point of pride to be in the Beat the Bells ‘Club.’”
“Then eight years ago came the idea to make it a spring community tradition to celebrate the May 1 holiday,” explained Mr. Birk. “And last year with the pandemic it was necessary (and fortuitous) to make it a virtual event, which turned out to be a great success and another evolution. I hope this hybrid model becomes a lasting tradition for Beat the Bells so that the worldwide TASIS community can continue to participate in and enjoy this special event.”