Set the alarm - and double-check the map. Same time, same route? For this year’s Gate River Run, not quite.
For the first time in decades, there’s a new starting time - 8 a.m. - for Saturday’s race through the streets of downtown Jacksonville, San Marco and St. Nicholas, according to our Florida Times-Union news partner.
That’s a change from the long-traditional 8:30 a.m. start for the classic centerpiece of the Northeast Florida running calendar, a race that also serves as the national 15K championship for USA Track and Field.
Due to the staggered start for the $5,000 Equalizer Bonus, the elite women will take off at 7:54 a.m., the earliest start in the event’s 41-year history.
The reason, for race director Doug Alred, is simple.
“It’s the heat,” he said. “Everything else is probably a negative. There’s less time to get everything ready and it gives people less time to get up.”
That heat has taken a toll in the last few editions of the annual race, which have sometimes included temperatures in the 70s - well above the optimal weather for distance running.
The shift should help runners keep slightly cooler, particularly if Saturday’s weather follows the trend of an unseasonably balmy February that entered the record books as the warmest recorded in Jacksonville.
Before then, though, it brings some logistical headaches on one of the heaviest traffic events downtown.
That earlier start doesn’t just mean affect thousands of runners. Course workers, vendors and volunteers will need to set their alarms a little earlier and hit the highway a little sooner to arrive at their assigned zones on time.
It also requires an information blitz to get the word out. When runners arrive at the expo on Thursday and Friday, JTC Running president Larry Roberts said staff will be there to remind them of the new time.
You can read a longer version of this story on Jacksonville.com, which includes a look at why the River Road stretch of the race in San Marco isn’t a part of the course this year.