River Run celebrates 40 years of running for a cause

UI students have organized the annual River Run race for 40 years, a 5K which benefits Uptown Bill’s Coffee House in Iowa City.


Katie Goodale

Runners approach the finish line during the River Run marathon at Kinnick Stadium on Sunday Apr. 29, 2018. Runners participated in a 5K beginning at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville and ending by Kinnick, where runners could get refreshments and visit the field.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

For students passionate about having an effect on the community and running, River Run provides an opportunity to do both.

River Run will celebrate its 40 years as a student-run charity. The run benefits Iowa City’s Uptown Bill’s and the Extend the Dream Foundation, which benefit individuals with disabilities living in Iowa City.

River Run Co-Executive Director Miranda Nichols said the causes go beyond just supporting individuals with disabilities, especially Uptown Bill’s.

“Uptown Bill’s is much more than that,” she said. “It hosts tons of community events from [Alcoholics Anonymous] meetings to ukulele clubs. [It’s] just a really fun in area in the Iowa City community for those who need that sense of community.”

Construction prevented previous event routes from extending along the Iowa River. For the 40th anniversary, the race route will return to the river for the first time since 2008.

Nichols said the original River Run was the first 5K race in Iowa City.

“Back then, it was originally where we have the course this year, as well,” she said. “We were excited to move back by the river, because it is the River Run. … In recent years, this course is most similar to what the course was when it first originated, and it’s the least elevated.”

Co-Marketing Director Shelby Spencer said outreach was a priority for River Run for the 40th anniversary. She revamped the groups’ Instagram and Facebook pages to reach out to both University of Iowa students and community members.

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“I also just wanted to make sure we were able to really raise a lot of money for Uptown Bill’s, because it was a good cause, and I wanted to get as many people as we can,” she said. “I wanted to make sure we went above and beyond, just like UI students — that’s why we posted a lot more, had more of an outreach.”

Nichols said that while the median age of a River Run participant is 29, participants range from 6 to 72 years old and come from a variety of backgrounds.

“I think it’s really cool — our organization gets more community members than other ‘orgs’ do, just because it has been around for so long,” she said. “It’s a cool range of ages, a range of people in the community, whether they be related to the university, if they were involved in the past years, or knew about it back when it originated in 1979.

With the group celebrating its 40th anniversary, alums have reached out to current race organizers. Nichols said she received a letter from the race director in 1985, sharing mementos from the race that year and wishing current organizers good luck.

While River Run makes an impact on the community, it impacts its student organizers as well. Co-Race Director Shane McTague said River Run allows him to stay connected to his passion for running.

“I’m a transfer sophomore, so I had never heard of [River Run],” he said. “I really love running, and I wanted to get more involved in the running community. It was a really good opportunity with the position that was open, and the foundation that we’re supporting is awesome.”