Gate River Run to provide economic boost

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Joanelle Mulrain thinks back to the first Gate River Run. She helped out with it 36 years ago as a supporter of downtown.

"It's a lot of people, it's a lot of fun, and it's all Jacksonville," she said.

Mulrain, of Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute, is confident annual events like this one are helping the city's economy.

"Look at what the sports and the city has done with sports in Jacksonville," she said. "It's starting to grow and explode, so we need to continue that thread and get the people out."

The run is a collaborative effort between locals, visitors and race participants, many of whom travel from far corners of the U.S. or even overseas to be in the River City. In all, about 20,000 will participate in Saturday's race.

Doug Tillett takes off work every year, volunteering to escort the elite athletes from Jacksonville International Airport to downtown.

"I try to be a good ambassador for the city and for the race," he said. "I tend to talk about things that are going along in town and what they might expect and what the weather is like. It's exciting to meet people, and I'm awfully glad that we've got a high-profile race that attracts this kind of a racer to the city."

The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is the host hotel. It's all booked for Friday night, and other downtown businesses always expect a large crowd.

"I think the publicity is great," Mayor Alvin Brown said. "When you really think about it, it showcases the city, it shows our St. Johns River and our downtown, it shows the world that we do first-class events. And I think it speaks to the character of Jacksonville and the ability to do things that will attract people to come to Jacksonville."

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