By Miriam S. Gallet
NAS Jax Public Affairs Officer
More than 20,000 people participated in this year's Gate River Run events held Saturday at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. Olympians, runners from all over the world and more than 200 military, DoD civilian and family members from various commands aboard NAS Jacksonville competed in the 15K. Others participated in the 5K and a one-mile fun run.
This was the 21st consecutive year the race has been selected to host the U.S. 15K National Championship, which is the largest in the country in term of participants.
This year's course took the runners twice over the St. Johns River and through beautiful San Marco where hundreds of residents cheered and oak trees provided shade from the rapidly rising temperature. Right after mile-marker eight, the runners encountered the "Green Monster." For those who were committed to completing the race, crossing the top of the bridge meant that the worst was over and the finish line was within reach. However, for those less fortunate it meant defeat.
The Hart Bridge, or Green Monster as it is commonly referred to in local running circles, didn't disappoint the thousands of runners who crossed it, including the hundreds of base participants. "My run was really good," exclaimed VP-45 PRC Fernando Morales, who along with his wife, Eva, completed the run.
"The Green Monster was the hardest part of the race for me. The incline was a contributing factor to my muscle fatigue."
According to NAS Jax Command Master Chief (CMDCM) Brad Shepherd, this year's race was more difficult. "When I turned on to Atlantic Boulevard it hit me. The many small inclines through the neighborhood streets accumulated and my legs were feeling it. However, once I crossed the bridge I new success was right around the corner," he said.
This was his eighth time competing in the event. "I really enjoy this event. It's well organized and I enjoyed the running camaraderie," added Shepherd.
A joyjous participant of the 2014 Gate River Run 5K race was Navy Region Southeast Housing Department staff member Cherry Haseltine.
"The Gate River Run is an inspiring event. There is so much family participation and you can set your own pace. The weather was great," Haseltine said. "We had so much fun and I'm now looking forward to the Chuck Cornett Run at NAS Jax April 5."
Every runner who crossed the finish line received a commemorative medal. The first man to cross the finish line was Benjamin True with a time of 43:04.
In the women's gategory no one was more happy to cross the finish line than the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan of Portland, Ore. She was the first woman to collect a medal with a record-breaking time of 47:03.