Though Trojans will compete with Bruins over Thanksgiving weekend in their annual football face-off, there is another showdown taking place off the field: the second annual We Run the City 5K event for Special Olympics Southern California.
The event, which takes place this Sunday to kick off rivalry week, is a fundraising run and walk that determines which school — UCLA or USC — will “run the city,” while supporting more than 14,000 Special Olympians at the same time.
The 5K’s Manager of Special Events Brandon Tanner said that the run has two major functions.
“The key is not only to raise funds for Special Olympics, but also it is awareness,” Tanner said. “Special Olympics heavily relies on volunteers, and a lot of our volunteers come from the colleges. This event helps get [students] engaged and provides an exposure to Special Olympics that many of them have never had.”
The competition is broken down into three categories: which school registers the most runners as their fans, which school raises the most funds and which school has the first 100 runners to cross the finish line. Each category is weighted evenly, and a school has to win at least two out of three categories to claim victory.
According to the run’s website, it’s a dead heat: USC and UCLA are tied at 50 points apiece. As a result, it will be up to the runners on Sunday — composed of students, alumni, faculty, staff and fans — to determine who will win “bragging rights” and the We Run The City trophy.
Tanner said that the rivalry between the two schools was just an added bonus, as the universities were chosen mostly because of their relevance to the upcoming World Games.
“Both campuses are going to be an integral part of the 2015 World Games, so this event is helping engage the students for that,” Tanner said. “Both schools will be a host to many of the venues for [the Games], as well as will be housing many of the athletes.”
The Special Olympics has worked to spark students’ interest in the event in several ways, including partnering with the recreation department at both campuses, in addition to reaching out directly to students.
“We held a student influencer meeting on both campuses and invited student representatives from some of the larger groups on campus, like Greek life, housing, the volunteer center and student government,” Tanner said. “We’ve also been out to football games for both schools, just doing some tabling.”
The increased recruitment efforts seem to be paying off.
“Last year, we had around 1,000 runners, and we’ve already surpassed that with registrations this year, and we have three days to go and the day of the event,” Tanner said. “We’re hoping to get 1,300 to 1,400 runners out there.”
One new runner that has decided to participate is freshman Deborah Bello, who decided she wanted to sign up after hearing about it from a friend.
“I love getting a workout wherever I can and it’s for a good cause,” Bello said. “Why not try to give money to someone in need?”
Bello said she was also attracted to the event because of the opportunity it presents to get involved with the community.
“I’ve never been able to help the Special Olympics kids in any way, so I think it’s a great way for me to start — just the thought of bringing that to a kid, who may not necessarily have the same ability or chance to try to get into something as amazing as the Special Olympics,” Bello said. “This is the perfect opportunity that I can help them be able to fulfill that dream.”
Bello said that while having the two rivals compete with each other might increase motivation to perform well in the race, she anticipates that the competition will still remain good-natured.
“I feel like there’s definitely going to be some feuding that will be apparent,” she said. “I’m sure the school colors will be everywhere — blue versus red. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. I could also expect a very chill atmosphere before it, but I’m sure that the minute that it starts, everyone is going to get pretty pumped and let that rivalry show.”
Tanner said he hopes for the event to continue in the future, and for the number of participating students to grow. He said the best way to accomplish this is to establish the event as one of the many traditions that go on during rivalry week.
“The reason we have the event on the day it is, is that it’s the Sunday before the USC-UCLA football game,” Tanner said. “Then it’s hosted on the campus where the football game will be hosted. We want to continue that. We want it to become another staple that is happening during that week.”
Looking back at last year’s run, Tanner said that he has no doubt that this year will prove just as successful.
“It was just awesome to see two schools coming together, using their friendly rivalry to help raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics,” he said.
We Run the City 5K will take place this Sunday at 9 a.m. at Exposition Park. Registration is $35 per runner, and is open until the day of, as well as provided on-site.