JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s the running event of the year in Jacksonville, with thousands of runners and hundreds of volunteers and spectators taking over the streets of Downtown, San Marco and St. Nicholas.
As strange as some of us may find it, people look forward to the 9.3 race all year. Many participate in the Gate River Run annually. For others, finishing the 9.3-mile course is a personal goal or something on their bucket list.
“My legs and my feet hurt, so that is the hardest part,” said first-time runner Rece.
“It should inspire anyone and everyone to be able to do whatever they need to do," runner Sandy Vestal said.
The route takes runners of ages over two major bridges and through dozens of neighborhood neighborhoods. The elite runners do the 15K course in well under an hour.
Once they pass, the race shifts into party mode, with music, baked goods, even beer and mimosas along the way.
“I used to run the race and then I hurt my knee so I couldn’t run it anymore. I wanted to do something for the people that were running it," said Sarah, who passe out bubbly in front of her home along the course. “Every year we probably double the champagne that we buy and we have people come out and help us. It’s kind of hard to keep up with it but we try our best.”
15K in 30 photos: The 2020 Gate River Run
The Farmer family has made running the race a tradition, with the family’s newest member -- 13-month-old Cooper -- on the sidelines cheering on mom.
“It was super special (for him) to see her and for her to see him,” said Cooper’s grandfather, Alex. “That, I think, was her motivation to get to the 5-mile mark."
Cooper’s father said his wife missed running last year, unable to train after her son’s birth.
“She was missing it last year,” Jake Farmer said of his wife." Sitting here, I think she was running in place. She has always been kind of a big runner -- marathons and what not -- so I’m excited to see her back out there having fun."
After crossing the finish line then proposing to his girlfriend, Elizabeth, Weston said he’d just done the hardest and easiest things in his life.
“Running the run; asking this girl to marry me,” he said.
Based on results from the Gate River Run website, 12,295 people finished the 15K this year -- 54% of them women. The youngest runner was 4-year-old Wyatt Pipitone from Glen St. Mary and the oldest was 89-year-old Shaina Jones of Orange Park. Both finished the run in under three hours.
Watch it again
Entire race as broadcast on WJXT, The Local Station