On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 14, athletes, families and people looking to support a good cause gathered on the University of Arizona Mall for Jim Click’s 2018 Run ‘N’ Roll. This annual event was an 8k or almost five-mile, race where wheelchair athletes and runners competed side by side. A 3k run and kid’s race also took place during the event.
The starting and finishing line was located in front of the Ina E. Gittings Building on the UA Mall, along with a tent set up for an awards ceremony, a DJ playing music throughout the event and stands with free food and drinks for participants and viewers alike.
The course looped throughout the university campus, reaching the corners of Sixth Street and Campbell Avenue and of Park Avenue and Second Street.
Due to construction taking place at a few locations around campus, the course route had to be changed from what it has been in past years.
“People don’t like it, but [UA] is the one having all this construction, so because of that we had to change the course this year,” said Bailey White, who works with the university’s men’s wheelchair basketball team and on the Adaptive Athletics event staff.
Monica Bermudez, a Southern Arizona Road Runners liaison, got all the volunteers, set up registration, scheduled the course and directed the event this year for the first time.
She explained that she has participated in the race before and knows lots of the participants running this year but was unable to run it and decided to help set it up.
"I'm a runner. If I'm injured I volunteer, otherwise I run it," Bermudez said.
Bermudez stated that a portion of the money goes toward expenses for setting up the event, but the rest of the money raised from registration, donations, and pledges that the participants collect goes directly to the Adaptive Athletics program within the Disability Resource Center at the university. The program puts the money toward scholarships within their program, adaptive equipment for the athletes, travel expenses and any other resource or facility that can use the funds.
Dina Fitzpatrick, a competitor in the race, came out to the Jim Click's race this year for the first time after finding it online while searching for races around the Tucson area. She said that she enjoys being in a race with lots of other people, all doing something together to make an impact.
Fitzpatrick stated that she lives in Oro Valley, and came out to the event "to be with likeminded healthy people, and just do something physically challenging for myself, and its all for a good cause."
Another runner decided to run under an alias, something he has done in a few other races in the past when he is unsure of whether he'll perform well or not. Buck Lentzer has been competing in Jim Click's Run 'N' Roll for as long as he can remember. On Sunday morning, he placed first in his age category under the name "Justin Kase."
"I wasn't sure I was gonna be able to finish because of an injury so I raced under 'Justin Kase' - with a K. Someone just reminded me, 'oh yeah what about Dollar Bill, Buffalo Bill, all these other names'...I've got like fifteen aliases. Depends on if I'm ready to race then I'll have to race under my own name in case something good comes out of it," Lentzer said.
He stated that the money being donated to such a great cause is the most important aspect of the event and that he tries to collect more money every year. Lentzer stated that Jim Click is what keeps bringing him back to the race.
"I always talk to him, it's nice to see him. He's just such a nice guy and it's such a nice event," Lentzer said.
Jim Click has supported the Adaptive Athletics program at the university since 1981, when an employee and friend of his was injured and left quadriplegic. His friend got involved with the University of Arizona's Adaptive Athletics and Click began actively raised funds for the program. He raised pledges by pushing himself around the University's track in an athletic wheelchair and eventually the event was brought to a bigger scale, resulting in the creation of the Jim Click Run 'N' Roll.
Nick Knapton is part of the university's wheelchair racing team. This year was his first time attending the Run 'N' Roll. He stated that he planned to compete, but his health wasn't where it needed to be to race. However, he still came out to the race to support his teammates who participated and to watch the community come together to support the event.
“Adaptive Athletics is so much a family that it’s really great to just come out here and support each other and just catch up and see how classes are going and whatnot. That sense of community is really important,” Knapton said.
Rachel Hargis, an access consultant for the Disability Research Center, came out to volunteer at the event. This was her first year at the event as well, and she said she thinks it’s important to share this event with the whole community.
“It shows the community that might not be a part of the University of Arizona that racing can happen with wheels too,” Hargis said.
Hargis and Knapton said they both plan to come to the event again next year.
“I hope to win it next time,” Knapton said.
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