Gate River Run 2022: 1 of my favorite days of the year

Gate River Run: What You Need To Know

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For me, it’s on the Mt. Rushmore of Jacksonville sporting events.

Saturday’s Gate River Run, the 45th running of the 15K race, will be my fifth year as part of the broadcast. It’s also one of my favorite days of the year.

Along with The Players Championship, Florida-Georgia game and Jaguars’ gamedays, the Gate River Run has become a signature sporting event in Northeast Florida.

To me, the event is defined by three things. First, it’s a race for a national championship for the elite runners who come from across the country. It’s a great community event that allows recreational runners to compete on the same course as Olympians. And finally, the course itself, highlighted by the Hart Bridge, the Green Monster.

The Elite Field

This year’s field of elites includes both defending champions, Olympian Emily Sisson for the women, and Clayton Young for the men. It also includes two-time men’s champion Leonard Korir and 2016 winner Stanley Kebenei. In addition, four other Olympians are in the men’s field, two-time Olympic Steeplechaser Hillary Bor, Olympic Triathlete Morgan Person, and 2012 Olympic 10K runner Diego Estrada. And then there is one of the greatest American distance runners in history, Galen Rupp.

Rupp is running the Gate River Run for the first time in his decorated career. The four-time Olympian is still in good form. He ran his personal record at the Chicago Marathon last year. He still holds the American record in the 10,000 meters and three indoor distances. At the Olympic Marathon last summer, he finished eighth after staying with the eventual winner, the great Eliud Kipchoge for the first 19-plus miles.

On the women’s side, defending champion Emily Sisson is back after she used her victory at the Gate River Run to propel her to one of the most dominant performances in Olympic Trials history. Emily Durgin is one of two other Olympians in the women’s field. She finished third in the River Run last year and is coming off an impressive sixth-place finish at the Houston half marathon. The other runner with Olympic experience is Emily Infield, who was a 2016 Olympian. She finished third in the recent national cross country championships. It’s a strong field for women named Emily. Other top runners to watch include Nell Rojas, the USATF 10K champion.


The Gate River Run isn’t just about the race for the national championship, or even for the First Coast Cup, the competition to be the fastest among the local runners. For most of the 12,000-plus runners, it is about competing with themselves or just enjoying the 9.3-mile course. This year, there will be bands set up in 14 locations around the course, including at the foot of the Hart Bridge.

In San Marco and St. Nicholas and even along Atlantic Boulevard neighbors gather to cheer on the runners. Some pass out water. Others provide snacks or toss marshmallows. A few might have some adult beverages to be distributed. It’s a moving party for those who aren’t concerned with their finishing time—or for those who set up in their front yards to watch the masses go by.

As a frequent (but slow) recreational runner, I love seeing the faces of my running friends after they cross the finish line. Each of them shows a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s their first Gate River Run or if they are a streaker—a runner who has competed in every River Run since the first one in 1978. There are 22 streakers signed up this year. Their number drops each year, but those who have never missed wear the title as a badge of honor. They should.

This year, we’ll see 92-year-old Augie Leone become the oldest to ever run the Gate River Run. He was the first to run it at 91 last year. We’ll also be watching to see if local cardiologist Page Ramezadi can set another age record. He has been the fastest man at the Gate River Run at every age between 66 and 70. Now 72, he’ll look to set another mark.

The Green Monster

The signature feature of the Gate River Run course comes in the last mile and a half. The Hart Bridge, known on race day as the Green Monster. It’s a little more than half a mile up to the top, and then a mile downhill to the finish line.

Young said that last year, it was all he could think about.

“That mile and a half, that was the only thing I had in my mind at the start line of the race,” Young said. “For months leading into the race, I thought, you know, okay, Green Monster, Green Monster, Green Monster. I just thought I’ve just got to get to the top of the Green Monster and I’d be good to go.”

Young was in a pack of half a dozen runners competing to the end. In windy conditions, Sisson, who was all along on the course, had to will herself up the bridge.

“I was struggling going up that bridge,” Sisson said. “I think the key was I do try to use a lot of positive self-talk when I’m racing to kind of just encourage myself and I knew the bridge was the last hurdle. So I kept telling myself, ‘once you get to the top, it’s literally all downhill from here.’”

This year, once runners get to the end of the bridge, they’ll notice a difference. Instead of finishing on the northeast side of TIAA Bank Field, runners will instead come off the ramp of the bridge onto Bay Street and run west before making a right turn past Daly’s Place before finishing near Gate 1 at the stadium.

“The elite runners that have run it before, they need to see that finish,” said Keith Brantly, 1996 U.S. Olympic marathoner and a race analyst for News4Jax. “Before the start of the race, they need to get out there, even if they have to drive over the course to see where it begins in relation to finishes, to any 90 degree turns that you have to make that close to the finish. Those are things that you as an elite runner, you absolutely need to know, and need to prepare for.”

It will be something to watch for. A sharp turn in the final 100 meters of a 9.3-kilometer race could provide some drama. Our coverage of the Gate River Run begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday on Channel 4 and streaming live on and News4Jax+.