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River Run forges ahead, but coronavirus changes coming into focus

Celebrating crossing the finish line of the 2020 Gate River Run. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Gate River Run is getting closer and race organizers are moving ahead on pulling off the 44th annual event next month in downtown Jacksonville.

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing quite a few changes to the iconic race, including a field that’s been reduced by nearly half. WJXT televises the race, which is March 20. All runners and walkers should be in position for the race by 7:30 a.m.

For more information on the event, see here.

Instead of a 15,000-runner field, entries have been capped at 8,000. Those spaces for the race sold out last month. Should the status of the event change due to coronavirus-related issues, the actual race would be canceled and moved to a virtual event.

Entries are limited, but still available for the 5K charity event. There won’t be a Junior River Run, Diaper Dash or Brooks Challenge Mile this year.

“With the approval of City and local health officials, we are currently moving forward with plans for the USA15K National Championship event, however we are implementing social distancing guidelines to make the event as safe as possible,” said race director Doug Alred.

Among a few of of the bigger changes:

  • The event will have socially distanced wave starts from two separate starting lines.
  • Masks will be required except when running and walking during the race.
  • There will be no awards ceremony or post-race celebration.
  • Volunteers who distribute medals will wear masks and gloves.
  • There is no race-day registration.

“Since many major events have not happened since last March, we are fortunate to have a high-quality field who are excited to be here competing here again,” Allred said.

Ridouane Harroufi (44 minutes, 42 seconds) and Marielle Hall (48:52) won the men’s and women’s races last year. Harroufi later failed two drug tests by USADA, including one at the River Run on March 7, and his results were scrubbed from the list. Frank Lara was elevated to the men’s champ with a 44:44. Harouffi received an eight-year suspension from USADA.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.