JACKSONVILE, Fla. - More than 20,000 runners will lace up for the 37th Annual Gate River Run on Saturday. It's expected to break record with the highest runner turnout in the nation's largest 15K.
Gate River Run veterans are going to notice some changes in the course. They may also notice more women tackling the 15K.
When the race began 37 years ago, men dominated the foot race, with only about 20 percent of participants being women. Times have changed.
"Over the years women have caught up, so now it's about 54 percent women and 46 percent men," said Run Director Doug Alred.
Runners will be competing for $85,000 worth of prizes.
The River Run will still start at Gator Bowl Boulevard, right in front of Metropolitan Park, but the finish line has been moved to the east side of EverBank Field, in front of Gate 4.
"We had no say in the change of course. The construction of the Jumbotron at the stadium is right where we used to finish, so the crane and fence are up and everything and we had to find a different spot," said Alred.
The finish line move does make it easier for spectators to cheer on the runners from both the start line and the finish line.
"The most exciting part of the race is being at the start/finish because there's a lot going on at the start and being there to watch people come over the finish line is good. There's music going and we have the post-race festival going on at the fairgrounds after you finish, there's a lot to do here," said Alred.
With about 9.3 miles of course to cover, there's plenty of other great spots to watch the race.
San Marco Boulevard between Prudential Drive and Lasalle Street, along River Road and on Atlantic Boulevard around Bishop Kenny High are some of the best places to get a glance of the runners.
"A good spot, and of course, where a lot of people like to watch… they want to watch people start up the Hart Bridge," said Alred.
"Watch us run and get some inspiration, give us a clap or a high-five, it's so much fun. If you don't want to yell, get a bell, put some rocks in a plastic thing and just shake it. Come out and be with us," said Gill Weise, who is running the Gate River Run for the 37th time this year.
The Gate River Run is the biggest 15K in the country, so if you want to get a good parking spot, you better get there early.
"We have about 20,000 cars trying to converge on the stadium within a one-hour period, so there's a lot of back up in traffic," said Alred.
Want to park with no problem? You'll be able to get a spot closest to the stadium before 6:30 a.m. After that you can expect a 30-minute delay when you get downtown.
Beyond the traffic headaches and race-day preparations, Weise said the run is well worth it.
"It's so exciting, you get into this mood and this atmosphere of running and the excitement of this run," said Weise.
He also has some advice for first-timers.
"Take it easy… that first mile is the roughest and the last mile going down the bridge be very careful. Don't worry about anything else, get your water, take your drink, get a little power bar and put that in your mouth, you need sodium and potassium out of that power bar," said Weise.
There's another way to track runners -- on your computer or phone. Race results will be updated on News4Jax.com every 15 minutes, and the RaceJoy app offers instant results and progress updates during the race. Just download the app to any Apple or Android device and look up the bib number of the person you want to track. You can Send-a-Cheer to a runner and even track where they are along the course, live.
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