by SHANNON BLANKINSHIP
Running is big in Jacksonville. We have the advantage of beautiful, winter weather while the Northeast and Midwest get pelted with snow. We also escape the blazing heat and humidity South Florida has year round. The stars are aligned for winter running in Jacksonville for three reasons: keeping that New Year’s resolution, getting in shape just before spring break, and the Gate River Run.
For experienced runners, Jacksonville never fails to offer challenging and exciting races to keep you training. For newbies, there is a 5k every weekend where no one expects world-class athletic skills. Dress like a pirate for the Amelia Island “Pirates on the Run” 5k in February, run for ice cream for the Kilwin’s Ice Cream Run in March, or try the 5k Foam Fest. There is never a lack of fun ways to keep fit in Jacksonville. For some ideas check out www.1stplacesports.com
If you live in Jacksonville, don’t pass up the best event this city offers all year. It happens on one day. The Gate River Run is the best party, a cheap thrill, and leaves you with a cardiovascular sense of accomplishment that will ride you directly into the summer out on our Jacksonville Beaches. Over 20,000 people run the Gate, and if you think you can’t hack it, think about that number. People in their late 80’s, children, firefighters carrying compressed air tanks and soldiers with rucksacks all run the Gate. People in mascot costumes and women in tutus will be right next to you. If you can’t run faster than a giant animal mascot, then at least you will leave the race with a funny story about trying.
26.2 with Donna to Finish Breast Cancer
(Ponte Vedra Beach, February 17th) The Donna 26.2, 13.1, 5k and relay race is a nationally recognized marathon bringing in tourists from all over the country wanting to run on Jacksonville Beaches in mid-February. Even for the locals, this course is exciting. Begin at TPC, run over historic coastal A1A, over the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge, sprint down Butler Blvd. and end on the beach to finish the race and help end breast cancer. Donna has made sure that any runner at any level can compete in this race while you work to build your distance up each year. www.breastcancermarathon.com
The Gate River Run
(Jacksonville Fairgrounds, March 9th) The largest 15k in the U.S. happens right here in Jacksonville. Begin this race at the Jag’s stadium with 20,000 other runners. Cruise over the Main Street Bridge, and then take a nice tour of downtown San Marco. San Marco residents love cheering the racers on which works as a great motivation just when you feel like quitting. Finish the race on the Hart Bridge. The Green Monster will make you feel accomplished every time you drive over it for years to come. Grab your gold medal at the end of the race and choose from getting a massage, dancing to the live music, hanging by the beer trucks, or passing out in the fairgrounds after the 9.4 miles you just ran. Keep your race number on for specials at local restaurants after the run. www.gate-riverrun.com
Color Me Rad
(Everbank Field, April 6th) This 5k is fun. The Color bombs start flying at 9 am with waves of runners getting plastered with paint every 5 minutes after. You’ll end up covered in bright colors from dry paint powder while managing to keep face and keep running. Join the crowd of colored runners after the race for nearby food and drinks. www.colormerad.com/races/jacksonville.html
(Jacksonville Equestrian Center, May 18th and 19th) This year Tough Mudder is coming to Jacksonville. This 12 mile race isn’t about the running; it’s about overcoming obstacles. Best completed with a team, the obstacles include the Boa Constrictor, where each person traverses through a wet muddy tunnel, Electric Eel, where people run through electrical wire, or Hold Your Wood, where teams help carry a log for at least a half mile. Victory feels best when you are covered in mud. http://toughmudder.com/events/florida-jacksonville-sat-may-18-sun-may-19-2013/
It isn’t too late to pick up a new weekend hobby as well. With all of the race training going on, you will have company on any of Jacksonville’s trails. Here are a couple of great running trails around town to get you started:
Downtown bridges – 2.8 miles. Begin at the Yates YMCA, 221 Riverside Avenue, run over the Acosta, across the turnabout at the Museum of Science and History, pass Friendship Fountain, work up the Main Street Bridge, go past the Jacksonville Landing, work up that spiral staircase, and end back at the YMCA for a sip of water and to walk it off.
Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail – 14.5 miles paved. This former railroad corridor now exists as the best place to train for a run or bike race. Located 5 miles from downtown Jax at 1800 Imeson Road, Baldwin trail has mile markers at every half mile to let you know just how far you have gone.
by SHANNON BLANKINSHIP