A couple of weeks ago now, I ran my first "River Run" in Jacksonville, Florida. Now, I have given you some info about the race before, but I wanted to tell you a little about how the race went. Pre-race, the expo was held at the Jax Fairgrounds and covered a decent amount of space. I thought it was pretty comparable to the expos at the Disney Marathon and the VA Beach Shamrock Marathon. Plenty of free goodies, sample granola bars, smoothie products, etc., etc. Truly special though, was the star power. Part of the reason I wanted to run the River Run is the history and the famous runners who have toed the line in the past. At the expo, I met none other than Bill Rodgers and Hal Higdon, both of whom were quietly greeting people, answering questions, selling books, and signing autographs. I sat and listened to Mr. Rodgers for a good 20 minutes as he took time to interact with each and every person who came through the line. He was so gracious and fun to talk to, giving out his tips and thoughts about the River Run, Boston, and other races. I picked up a copy of "26 Miles to Boston" with a lot of history about the race and I can't wait to read it (sometime soon at a weekend at the beach). Somewhere around here I've got a picture with Mr. Rodgers, and I'll have to post it when I find it. Mr. Higdon was also quite gracious, but a little less animated. Found some more great shorts, and I think I may have just given up on buying shorts in stores, the deals were so good at the last couple of races I ran that they're hard to beat. Hard to tell how "big" of a running town Jax is. just being as big as it is, there are plenty of runners and people who participated, and I think that per capita it must be a pretty big running town given the number of events and stores it has.
So, the numbers then. 15,000+ for the 15K and 5,000+ for the 5K. 5K starts a little bit before the 15K and goes off in a slightly different course. Then ten minutes before the 15K, the elite women get their start. I was lucky enough to be in the second corral and had a great time chatting with people I'd never met, some of whom had run the River Run dozens of times before and were lamenting the usual running ailments, ITB, fasciitis, etc. The 8:30 AM start time was really nice compared to the 6A starts of recent races I've run, and I was caffeinated and ready when the cannon went off.
The course starts and ends near the stadium going west, south over the river, roundabout for several miles, then back north over the river up and over the Isaiah D. Hart Bridge with a nice downhill finish into the chute. I tried using mapmyrun.com to calculate the severity of the hill on the Hart bridge and the best I can figure, it's about an 8% grade for a half mile (take that Boston!) The bridge is obviously a challenge when you have been pushing hard for the last 8 miles. Overall it is a really fun course which is challenging. Since it is less than a half marathon, I felt compelled to really try to push it, but it is certainly not your neighborhood 5K either, so it's somewhere between an all out and having to save up your reserves. Top ten percent finishers received a custom hat from adidas (very comfy!) with medals for everyone. The post-race massages were free as well! Very relaxing, but actually the best part was the active stretching they helped with.
Had a lot of fun and if I lived in Jax I'd probably do it again. I think the limiting thing for me is that I had to stay in a hotel the night before, and I'm not sure the race was worth $100 in addition to the registration fees and such. That said, it was a blast and I am really glad I ran it.
Oh yeah, how'd I do? I felt awesome, 6:34 pace brought me in at 1:01:15. 37th in my class, 222nd overall.