His name is Bearsun. And right now he’s running 400 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco in little more than his bear suit. It may not be the life-size teddy bear’s first trip, but it may be his biggest challenge yet.
The man in the costume is Jesse Larios, a 33-year-old Californian who works for a company that sells health insurance. He has completed a marathon disguised as Bearsun, a character of his own creation, but this is his first 400 mile walk from city to city.
“I’m like a puppy, I think. I just see something and chase after it, ”Larios said of the trip he decided on, simply because it sounded like a fun adventure.
His trip to San Francisco, which began in Little Tokyo, LA on the morning of April 12, was already fraught with several unexpected challenges.
His original goal was to run between 30 and 50 miles per day, but parts of the trip will be over mountainous trails that make this goal more strenuous than expected. Road closures and the need to detour only make it difficult for Bearsun to find his way to San Francisco.
While he hoped to get there by April 17th, he now expects to get there by April 21st. But for Larios it’s not about when he gets there, just that he does. Instagram updates track his progress.
And this journey is difficult. Bearsun doesn’t live in hotels, he just sleeps wherever he is at the end of the day, “camping”, but without equipment. He visits gas stations to eat and to clean up.
The birth of Bearsun
Bearsun was born in 2016 when Larios created him with the help of a friend. Its colors were inspired by Larios’ dog Bear, an Alaskan Malamute. For his “bean” head shape, Larios wanted to give him something unique and stupid, like the pronounced football-shaped head of the main character of his favorite cartoon “Hey Arnold!”
And the design also appeals to Bearsun’s character. While Larios is the speaker, Bearsun is the listener, he said, which is why it was designed with no visible mouth on its face.
“Bearsun is very open-minded … he’s more action than words,” explained Larios.
But Bearsun doesn’t have to speak to send a message, Larios said, since his existence is an icebreaker to start a conversation.
Larios’ journey with Bearsun was marked by unpredictable and immeasurable challenges – but it hasn’t stopped him from moving forward.
In 2019, he decided to run a marathon, and he wanted to do it while disguised as a Bearsun.
“I got the stupid idea of just putting the suit on and trying to finish the marathon without ever running a marathon (before) – another impulsive decision I made,” he said.
It didn’t go well.
At the 22nd mile, Bearsun could not go any further and withdrew from the race. But Larios was determined to try again a year later in 2020. After learning from his previous mistakes, Bearsun made it to the finish line this time.
Bearsun’s second life
These adventures take a toll on Bearsun’s cheerful appearance – in the form of smudges and tears that Larios sews back together himself.
He knows this current form won’t last forever for Bearsun. So he’s hoping his GoFundMe will raise $ 10,000 for a second, higher quality suit so Bearsun can keep walking and running.
And he hopes to donate the rest of the money to charity, even though he hasn’t yet identified an organization. He is particularly inspired by supporting people without caregivers, such as older adults and children.
Bearsun doesn’t have a big mission to change the world. Larios just saw something he wanted to do and spontaneously set about achieving it. As his travels continue, he has been wished “good luck” and “safe travel” on social media as people snap pictures of him to share when they cross his path.
Bearsun even had a minor breach of the law when several locals called the sheriff’s office to check on him to make sure he was hydrated and not under “coercion.”
“I want to do that. I just want to run marathons in my bear suit, ”he said. “It makes other people happy too, and for me it’s all about laughing and smiling.”