JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Things are getting back to normal at the Gate River Run.
For the most part.
One year after race organizers limited the field to 8,000 participants, about half of the usual number, they’re back to a full field, and runners are not missing their chance to be a part of it.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen this year,” said race director Doug Alred. “Registration is really doing well. As matter of fact on December 31, we had more entries than we’ve ever had before, ever (at that point). So that was pretty surprising to me. Right now, we’re up 20 percent. I fully suspect it is going to slow down. But even if it slows down, that could be a pretty significant number.”
Last year’s race started with all runners wearing masks at the starting line—and there were two starting lines used, instead of the traditional one—and contact with the elite runners was extremely limited.
This year, the only COVID restrictions will come at the runner’s expo in the days leading up to the race where everyone inside the expo will be required to wear a mask. Aside from that, it’s business as usual, and runners are responding.
“What I’m thinking is happening is that there’s pent-up demand since a lot of people didn’t get to run last year or didn’t want to run last year. They’re jumping back in this year,” Aldred said. “So I think we might have a banner year.”
Like last year, there is an option to run the race virtually, although Alred expects the number of runners taking that option will be limited.
The race is scheduled for March 5 and will be broadcast on WJXT, Channel 4. The Gate River Run serves as the national championship 15K and kicks off a busy sports month in the area. The Players Championship is played the following week.
The Players move to March actually saved the Gate River Run in 2020. The race was scheduled to be run the following week until the Players moved, so the Gate River Run was moved a week earlier.
“(That) turned out to be a blessing,” Alred said. “Because we wouldn’t have had it if since after Thursday, they had to cancel the (Players). So they kind of saved our lives.”
Alred says that if prospective runners are considering entering the race, it’s not too late.
“If you’re currently doing three or four miles and go out and do it once or twice a week, you’re probably on track to be able to do the River Run, if you really want to do it,” Alred said. “The one thing I always like to stress to people, we are the USA 15k championship, but that’s a very small percentage of the people going to be running this race and most of the people are going to run this race, they’re going to be run-walking. If you can run a little bit and some people walk the whole way, but if you can run-walk, you’ll beat a lot of people.”