JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A glitch that delayed the start of the 34th Gate River Run by five minutes didn't fluster the top-seeded men or women in Saturday's race or the thousands of recreational athletes who pounded the pavement of downtown Jacksonville, San Marco and St. Nicholas.
Mo Trafeh, 25, of Duarte, Calif., crossed the finish line at 42.58 -- the exact time he had to become last year's 15K champion -- and Jen Rhimes, 36, of Mammoth, Calif., finished at 49:31 to win the woman's title.
Race officials said 14,971 of the 16,799 who registered to run the 15K completed the course. For the first time, women finishers outnumbered men. The first local runner across the finish line was Kim Pawelek, 37, with a time of 56:53.
"Women have steadily been growing in numbers in this race and now represent the largest-growing segment in the sport," race director Doug Alred said.
Todd Williams, five-time River Run winner, said Saturday's cool, calm conditions were the best since 1995, the year he set the 15K record of 42:22. That record that still stands.
The top-seeded women, who got a six-minute "equalizer" head start, took off about 8:31 a.m.. Half-way into the 15K, Katie McGregor was leading the other elite women by a few strides and Trafeh, was the first man at a San Marco check point.
But by the time the top seeds reached the Hart Bridge, Rhimes was in the lead.
"I had to give it a good effort to catch the girl at the top of the hill," Trafeh said. "It helps a lot knowing the course."
Trafeh said since he's in training for the London marathon, he will rest a little at the hotel, then go out for a training run in the afternoon.
"I'm probably in the best shape of my life at age 36, so I'm really excited," Rhimes told Channel 4's Sam Kouvaris. "This was the first professional I won, so it's really special to me to come back 13 years later and win it again."
There were 1,400 more runners in the 15K than last year -- and another 4,500 people registered in either the 5K or the 1 mile fun run.
According to Alred, this was the 10th consecutive year of growth in Jacksonville's largest participatory sporting event, and it remains the largest 15K in the United States.
This year's elite field included four Olympians, 10 national champions and six former champions competing in the race designated as the 15K USA National Championship.
Other Gate River Run events Saturday included the Florida Times-Union 5K Run and Walk for Charity, the Brooks Rehab Challenge Mile, the Adidas Junior River Run (1 mile) for children and a Diaper Dashes for ages 1 to 4.
Runners heard 12 bands along the course, including on both sides of the Hart Bridge, and were cheered on by hundreds of people who lined streets, many inspiring the runners by holding signs or playing inspiring music.
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