Walk to honor former NU football coach

For the last four years, Northwestern has honored the memory of football coach Randy Walker with a five kilometer walk for charity.

This year the event got a facelift with the inaugural Run for Walk, a 4.1-mile run as part of the City of Evanston Let’s Move Race Series. The race on July 29 winds through NU’s campus, hugging Lake Michigan before circling back to finish on Ryan Field. The course is U.S. Track and Field certified and each participant will receive a timing chip and the best male and female runner will receive a special award.

The run has attracted already close to 500 registrants, almost double the average attendance in the event’s first four years of existence. Shawn Sullivan, the Director of Marketing in the NU Athletic Department, said the addition of the 4.1 mile run has brought a new market to campus. The Evanston Running Club has partnered with the athletic department to put on the event and Sullivan suspects it has helped increase attendance. However, Sullivan also said the rise in season ticket sales and attendance to NU sporting events have had a positive impact as well.

“As we sell more season tickets we expose more people to our events,” Sullivan said.

As part of the registration fee, each participant receives a t-shirt and ticket to a non-conference football game in addition to the timing chip. The ticket promotion is one of the few things carried over from the previous event along with the walk.

Sullivan said there was not enough staff for the athletic department to run the previous events on a large scale, so the last year was spent trying to spruce up the event and show the support for the Walker family.

“We are trying to do it the right way,” he said. “We’re trying to enhance the event and make it the best it can possibly be.”

The city has also pitched in to help make sure the event runs smoothly. The support includes presence from the Evanston Police Department and the closing of some Evanston streets. Sullivan called the city “totally supportive” and tweeted earlier this week that the athletic department had a “productive meeting” with the city as they prepared for the event.

All the proceeds from the events will go to C.A.R.E. for the Evanston Animal Shelter, a charity Coach Walker supported while he was in Evanston. The choice came in consultation with Tammy Walker, Randy’s widow. Tammy worked in the athletic department’s development team the last five years and has been influential in the decision making process throughout the entire event.

The date comes a day after BTN’s 10K run in Chicago in conjunction with Big Ten Media Days and the Kickoff Luncheon. Sullivan said the athletic department has had talks with the network to have cross promotional pieces at the event and make the Run for Walk segue into the start of the fall sports season.

“We want to try and make this event a kick-off to football season,” Sullivan said.