Firefighters tackle River Run in full gear

Jacksonville firefighters run to honor those lost on Sept. 11, 2011


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took the lives of 343 firefighters. To honor their fallen brothers, a group of Jacksonville firefighters have run the 15K Gate River Run in their bunker gear every year since.

"Those guys went up that building, went up all those flights of stairs, and we're just running 10 miles. It doesn't even compare," firefighter Mike Wells said.

Eric Prosswimmer came up with the idea. Although he can't do it this year because of training, the firefighter said he's going to do it every other year until he physically can't run the race anymore.

And then, he's going to have someone push him in a wheelchair in his 45-pound bunker gear.

Allen Mallard has done it nine times.

"Initially, when you first start out, you're psyched up. You don't feel it," Mallard said. "But when you get three or four miles into it, you kind of go numb."

Support from the community is overwhelming.

"It doesn't even seem like 10 miles because during the whole run, it's constantly people talking to you, pushing you on, egging you on to finish the race," said Wells, who will run the race in his gear for the third time Saturday.

To the firefighters, it's the least they can do.

"Things are so quickly forgotten, what those guys did," Mallard said. "They literally gave their life, the same thing anybody here in Jacksonville would do if we had the same thing happen here. And we're just trying to keep their memory going on."