JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 2018 running of the Gate River Run, the national championship 15K was ,once again, as much a social event as it was a foot race.
For the 41st straight year, the Jacksonville community turned out to watch, and participate in the Gate River Run.
"This is great, just an awesome event every year," said one runner, who was keeping pace with her brother as they ran through San Marco, near the halfway mark of the 9.3 mile course.
For 38 streakers, runner who have competed every year like George Martin, it's something they look forward to every March.
"It's just awesome every year," Martin said. "It's the only race I run now. I train for it, but this is the one."
As for the competition, last year's men's winner, Leonard Korir, defended his title on a perfect day, weather-wise."
"Running last year, knowing the course, it helped me a lot," said Korir, who won last year as a first time entrant. "I know where to push. I know the toughest parts and what to expect."
But no body could catch the women's champion, Molly Huddle, who dominated the field. The American record holder in the half-marathon and 10K and was the first to cross the finish line to become the National Champion in the 15K. Her time of 47:50 worked out to a pace of 5:07 per mile.
"I was just running and thinking they could catch me at the end," Huddle said. "You go in there with a mile to go and you still have to push. I know they time our last mile. I said, let's try to make it fast."
Huddle and the second and third place finishers, defending champion Jordan Hassay and Molly Seidel, will be among the Americans who will try to win the Boston Marathon in April. That trio will be joined by a former champion of the Gate River Run, Shalane Flanagan, as some of the favorites for Boston.
For so many local runners, it's the culmination of a year's work. Now, the runners and the supporters will look forward to 2019 and the 42nd running of the Gate River Run.