Great State: The Runners’ Chair

NORMAN, Okla. — When Jim Roblyer goes for a run, at times like this, he’s doing more than just staying in shape and giving his Teddy Bear a ride. He’s advertising too.

“We think that we can serve a lot of people, one at a time in this chair,” he said.

About a year ago the Oklahoma City Land Runners running club acquired this racing chair as a donation.

They thought of giving it away but then, step by step, an idea presented itself to Jim who’s been running 40 years by himself.

He thought, “Why can’t we provide an exciting, thrilling, competitive ride for people with physical challenges who couldn’t do that.”

And so this unique program began with a race in Tulsa.

Designated club members were chosen to push a volunteer through a road race course.

It wasn’t always easy to find volunteer riders but someone’s name always came up for what always proved the ride of a lifetime.

Roblyer said, “It’s thrilling to be able to provide something like that who can’t do it themselves.”

The 2012 edition of the Memorial Marathon will be the first in a while for Roblyer.

Again, as he trained, he and other club members searched for someone to ride.

Gus Thompson had just the person, his granddaughter Gracie.

“She was born with cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis,” Thompson said. “She’s also a comedian. When her mom told her about this experience, she said, ‘Mom. If I’m going to do this marathon I’m going to need a sports bra.'”

The chair needed a little modification.

Dean Bischoff runs the wheel chair shop at the J.D. McCarty Center in Norman.

He helped Jim and Gus replace some of the do-it-yourself solutions they’d relied on in the past.

He helped them build a better seat to fit the frame of a 7-year-old racer.

Dean says, “It needed some adjustability in order to hold the child in comfortably and safely.”

On a test run Monday morning there are no complaints from the bear.

Gracie is due in town late in the week with family in tow all the way from Kentucky.

The run of a lifetime and the ride of a lifetime all in one package.