Runners cruise past the finish line at the Gate River Run. | Gate River RunRunners cruise past the finish line at the Gate River Run. | Gate River Run
Runners cruise past the finish line at the Gate River Run. | Gate River Run

Thousands will hit the roads Saturday for Gate River Run

Published on February 29, 2024 at 11:49 am

The sound of pounding feet will fill the streets of Jacksonville on Saturday as the 48th running of the Gate River Run dashes through 15 kilometers of Downtown, Southside and Arlington.

As always, the 16,000 runners, as well as para-athletes, will tackle the infamous Green Monster — the 141-foot-tall Hart Bridge — as the last leg of their journey through one of the best-known 15K races in the U.S.

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The entry list is full, so organizers are not taking any more runner registrations. The field is not a record, but it’s a lot more than in recent years, longtime race director Doug Alred said.

As for the forecast of some rain on Saturday, racers and the rest will adapt, he said.

“Rain? Sometimes for race management, it’s a pain in the butt,” Alred said. “For the runners sometimes, the rain can be a relief if it’s kind of warm. Last year we got rain after an hour and a half. And it was so humid and hot then. Once the rains came, it made everybody enjoy the race a bit more, but it made the post-race activities terrible.”

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The race was born as the Jacksonville River Run. It attracts professional as well as amateur runners and became a U.S. National Championship 15K in 1994.

The River Run route. | Gate River Run

The runners will tackle a 9.3-mile run from the city’s Downtown sports complex, then run through San Marco south. After running down San Marco Boulevard, then a brief stretch along the St. Johns River on River Road, runners will zig-zag their way northeast to Atlantic Boulevard, under Interstate 95 and then east again. The final leg is down Atlantic Boulevard before turning onto the Hart Bridge to end on Gator Bowl Boulevard at EverBank Stadium.

The races launch in waves on Duval Street in front of the Jacksonville Fairgrounds, with the elite women’s class of top 25 seeded runners at 7:54 a.m. At 8 a.m., the U.S.A. 15K champions launch, as does wave 1 in blue, green, red, orange, black and white number bibs. The next three waves dash off the start line at five-minute intervals, with those walking the course at the end.

Runners can expect water stations along the route, with medals given to all finishers. But organizers said all 15K participants need to be to the Hart Bridge — mile 7.5 — by 10:30 a.m. in order to finish within the race time limit. There is a disabled athlete division for competitors in handcycles or wheelchairs.

Runners also will compete in the Synovus 5K race for charity, set to launch at 8:45 a.m. at the starting line on Duval Street at A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. All 5K finishers end inside the fairgrounds and also get a finisher medal.

The Gate River Run start and finish lines. | Gate River Run

Registration was full by early Wednesday, which pleased Alred as he prepared the race start site on Wednesday.

“It’s good — it’s always good to be increasing and not going down,” he said. “A lot of people want to run, and in addition to the 15K and 5K, we have two mile-long events with about 1,500 people signed up.”

Other runs include the free 11 a.m. Junior River Run for any child 13 or younger. The Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile is for physically challenged racers and starts at 9 a.m., on Duval Street. And there is an 11 a.m. Diaper Dash behind the stage inside the fairgrounds, with four divisions based on ages of the young competitors, ranging from 12 months and under, up to 48 months.

Don’t forget the road closures during the race, including Duval Street next to the Jacksonville Fairgrounds, from 7:15 to 8:45 a.m., then A. Philip Randolph Boulevard from Adams to Bay streets from 7:15 to 9 a.m. Runners head down Duval Street, then down to the Main Street bridge, so that part of Downtown as well as the blue span will be shut from 7:45 to 9 a.m.

Roads through San Marco and St. Nicholas shut from 8 to 10 a.m., with Atlantic Boulevard from Gay Street to the Hart Bridge shut from 8:20 to 11 a.m., along with the green span through 11:30 a.m.

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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