Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rain and Wet Sand Can't Slow Beach Run; Hundreds of Runners Take Part in the Annual 5-Mile Race on Jacksonville Beach

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rain and Wet Sand Can't Slow Beach Run; Hundreds of Runners Take Part in the Annual 5-Mile Race on Jacksonville Beach

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

The beach wasn't as wide as expected, the sand wasn't dry and packed, and steady rain forced spectators under umbrellas.

But hundreds of runners lined up anyway for the 5-mile Summer Beach Run Saturday afternoon at the SeaWalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach. The event, in its 46th year, is a tradition for many longtime runners and a lure for novices who want to compete and socialize with others in the sport. The event also featured a 1-mile Fun Run for kids.

The race hosted by the JTC Running club, formerly the Jacksonville Track Club, is the oldest foot race in Florida and is uniquely challenging because it's all on the beach. Registrar Hannah Palmer said about 1,200 people registered for the event, sponsored by Carrabba's Italian Grill.

The race's popularity reflects the fact that running is increasing in popularity among all ages, said Dave Bokros, director of operations for 1st Place Sports, which managed the race. He said his company has witnessed a 10 to 15 percent growth in the sport for the past several years.

One reason is that Americans in most age groups are focused on getting healthier, he said. And in the down economy, many are taking up running because it's inexpensive.

"It's very inexpensive, a decent pair of running shoes is the only major cost, about $100. And you can do it anywhere; it's great," he said.

Waiting for the start gun, Bob Meister, 78, of the Westside, said he's been running the race since 2002 and his time is only about 10 seconds slower than it was eight years ago.

Charles Goodyear, 71, of the Southside, said he ran in high school and college, and took up running again several years ago.

As he and Meister placed their toes behind the red start line in the sand, he grinned.

"We're up front so we don't have to run so far," he said. …

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