Locals, visitors take part in River City Run for Kids Saturday

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, February 27, 2010

NATCHEZ — Contestants of all ages braved chilly morning conditions Saturday in order to compete in the annual River City Run for the Kids.

The event saw both a 5K walk and a 10K run that began and ended at Bowie Outfitters, as well as a one-mile fun run. Over 200 people participated in the three different events.

Event coordinator Jack Ward said the run is a conglomeration of two different runs that Natchez used to host.

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“Originally, we had the River City Classic 10K run, which always happened this time of the year,” Ward said. “The 5K Run for Kids would always take place in October.

“About three or four years ago, the River City Classic shut down, and the Run for Kids took it over and just combined the two events.”

The result is the event that the Junior Auxiliary of Natchez puts on in order to raise awareness for child obesity. Ward said the run, which he has been a past participant in, has seen much evolution over the years.

“I can’t remember exactly when it started, but a lot’s changed since it did,” Ward said. “The first year we were here, they were trying to put the (Grand Soliel) Casino up.”

Bennett Randman, 60, placed first in the 5K walk with a time of 31:40, his best time since seven years ago, he said.

“I finished somewhere around 37 minutes back then,” Randman said. “My best time is still 27:49, back in 1996.”

Randman, a Jackson resident, said he was thrilled to place first in the event.

“It feels like I’ve died and gone to heaven. If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.”

Randman has been competing in the event for 17 years, and said it enables him to get away from his work as a musician and live freely.

“Just the natural high and the friendly camaraderie is what keeps me coming back,” Randman said. “It gets me outside the professional realm. My job is my job, and this is my life.”

Randman also said he had partial knee replacement surgery last year, which has allowed him to come back strong as a contestant.

“If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Randman said. “My leg feels better than it did in high school. It feels like I had a leg transplant.”

Atlanta resident Joe Bowman, 44, a Natchez native, finished first in the 10K run with a time of 37.56. He said the run gives him a reason to come back to Natchez and compete against old friends.

“I grew up here, so this is home,” Bowman said. “A small group of us run in this in order to re-live our youth and see who’s still in shape.”

Despite the first place finish, Bowman said he wasn’t aiming for it like he has in years past.

“This one I was just kind of here to run, and it just kind of turned out that way,” he said. “Other years I really wanted to win, but I was just here to have fun (today).”

Runner-up in the 10K run was Terry resident Collin Johnson, who finished with a time of 38.34. Despite not being from Natchez, he said he always enjoys visiting.

“I love Natchez,” Johnson said. “I used to always want to live here, but it just hasn’t happened yet. I always come to the opera festival in May, and I’ve been competing in the run since 1995.”

A second-place finish and a good time is a source of bragging rights, Johnson added.

“You don’t think about it much, but when you’re 34, and you look at the standings and see a bunch of 20-year-olds, you get a sense of pride. It was a big day for me. If you can run fast in Natchez, you can run fast anywhere, because the hills here are tough.”