JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The field for Saturday’s 44th annual Gate River Run is limited to 8,000 runners because of the pandemic.
But the U.S. 15K National Championship is expected to draw one of the best fields of elite runners in recent years.
Race Director Doug Alred says that’s because the River Run is special to a lot of the top runners and many of them haven’t had a lot of opportunities to race since the pandemic began last year.
“It’s a pretty challenging course. It’s 9.3 miles, it runs through some great areas, usually a lot of spectators on the course, I don’t know how that will go this year but then, of course, the Hart Bridge is in the last couple miles, which is a good challenge.”
The daunting climb near the course’s end has been dubbed The Green Monster by competitors.
Due to the pandemic, Alred said the elite runners will be tested for COVID-19 and will be kept separate from other runners on race day. Organizers are expecting one of the best elite fields in recent years, including Olympians and past champions.
“They all stay at one hotel. They’ll be brought in right before the race starts. They’ll do their warmup someplace else. They’ll come in, and then we’ll just bring them up to the starting line. We’ll have it totally secured so they are separated from everybody else,” Alred said.
There will also be two start lines this year. One at Duval and A. Phillip Randolph streets. The other at the corner of Adams and A. Phillip Randolph.
Runners will merge before the Main Street Bridge.
Em Sisson, one of many professional runners taking part in this year’s 15K race, is ready to line up at the start line.
“I’m excited to push myself. I’ve actually never raced that distance before so that’ll be kind of fun,” said Sisson. “I just really love road races.”
Despite the changes this year, Runners like Sisson are looking forward to the opportunity to race.
I asked one the pro runners what his tip is for people as they make their way over the Green Monster. He said the best advice he has is to look forward to the downhill.
All of the runners participating in this year’s Gate River Run will have to wear a mask when they are not running.
News4Jax will broadcast the race Saturday morning on air and online.