O’Keefe race to be more inclusive

Jika Knight is gliding down a path, assisted by his father during one of the pair’s regular runs.

“The little bugger. He always first across the line. I’ve never beaten him yet,” Ross Knight said.

Jika lives with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

The pair are preparing for the Walk, Cycle and Roll, a marathon taking place on the O’Keefe Rail Trail later this month between Junortoun and Heathcote.

“Jika and I love running together and to be able to compete in this marathon means a lot to me as a dad. It means a lot to the other team members and everyone who knows Jika too,” he said.

Mr Knight said a team of runners would push Jika the length of the 42km course.

“He’s had a lot of support over the years from the community, especially from Heathcote Health who have been there for a lot, including respite care.

“Jika’s showing people with disabilities that it’s OK to join in public events. That’s his message.”

Jika is not the only person with a disability planning to take part in this year’s event. Rohan Lees and Marney Lamb will also compete, being assisted in an all-terrain “trail rider”.

Race director Sandra Slatter said organisers had worked with Scope Australia to make sure the event catered to those of all abilities.

“As event orgnisers it has been really important to us that we get it right and not just assume how to meet needs of people with limited mobility,” she said.

Each stage of the race would be assessed and rated for comfort and safety.

Mobile change stations would also be set up at Axedale and Heathcote.

“It’s going to make things easier. Lots of things can go wrong when you are running. Jika has special feeding equipment and that need to be checked constantly. Some people might need medication on the road,” Mr Knight said.

Meanwhile volunteers Travis Edwards and Dan O’Bree planned to run the full distance with Mr Lees and Ms Lamb.

“There will certainly be a lot of intense emotions from everyone when we all cross the finish line,” Mr Edwards said.

The Run Cucle Walk and Roll takes place on 22 and 23 April. For more information on the event races click here.