Gate River Run: Tips from the Pros

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the Gate River Run fast approaching, local runners and elite runners alike need to be physically and mentally prepared for the 15K that serves to crown the national championship winner. It is also Jacksonville’s largest annual race.

We asked defending men’s champion Clayton Young and our running analysts, former Olympic marathoner Keith Brantly, five-time First Coast Cup winner Julie Stackhouse, and Ironman triathlon competitor and former Jaguars head coach Mike Ryan, Giving runners some tips to keep in mind. Here’s what they said.

Ryan on how runners should approach the finals weeks before the race:

“I’m a big fan of running every other day, not running every day. So I think the most important thing is that you want to click things. Here, too, we are in a short time window. A good way to do this is that you might want to ramp it up two miles a week. And in a good way. As a physical therapist and athletic trainer, I always look at this element of injury prevention. This can be a bit more aggressive than you really want. But a great way to offset this is to run on softer surfaces. Get more times with either sand, dirt or grass under your feet. So you increase the mileage, you increase some of the intensity, but you don’t increase the pounding of your legs.”


Stackhouse on what runners should consider in their diet as the race approaches:

“What I’m always suggesting these last few weeks is just focus on whole foods, lots of fruits and veggies, not too many processed foods, you know, sometimes we have to rely on those in our long-distance training, like marathon training . But this is a 15 case. So if you really stick with what you know, it will work for your body. And it’s still okay to experiment over the next few weeks in those last few long runs, last few workouts, to see what works for you the night before you eat and the morning before you eat. A lot of people just came back from a race last weekend. So maybe they had a chance to experience what works for them. They don’t want to change things too drastically in the last few weeks.”

Young on the best coaching he has ever received:

“I think the mantra I always try to carry actually comes from Coach (Ed) Eyestone. He always says that consistent competence ultimately means excellence. So if you are consistently competent in your training, you will all eventually achieve excellence. You know, there are so many things that come into play on race day, so many variables. And that eventuality is why it’s in there. It may not be your day that day, but you will eventually excel if you continue to race and be consistently proficient in your training. As for race day, I think the mantra I always go for is relax and roll. I like to say that, you know, especially in these endurance races. Running is never forced. It’s relaxing and rolling.”


Brantly on having a plan:

“There are two thought processes. And both run parallel. One is the physiological side, the other is preparing physically for the race. They also run in parallel. If you are not fit and have some concerns about your fitness that may affect your psychology, on the physiological side you will not do anything for the last seven days, it will help you and, in fact, it will hurt you.

“There are many things you can control, but many — many more things you cannot control.”

Stackhouse on the mental approach to starting the race:

“What I’ve learned over the years is, OK, you know, I have to deal with the fact that I’m a little bit different in the beginning. But I’ll feel so much better racing when I’m in the zone that I know I should be in based on my training. I tell people not to be too much of a slave to your clock. Because you have the X factors on race day like a competition there’s a clock on you, people cheering, excitement, your family members are out there, your co-workers are out there. So you have all that. But in general, you should really be careful not to get too caught up in this hype for the first mile, because that will get you hooked. And that will feel great until you feel the first climb over the Main Street Bridge. Whatever your routine, when you get to the starting line, take a few deep breaths and look forward to being there. Use that enthusiasm, but also temper it a little. I never say “slow” to a runner. But be patient. That’s three 5Ks. What you do early to be patient will pay off later because let’s not forget that the most challenging part of this course is at the end.”


Brantly on dealing with the Green Monster:

“Just understand that it’s a very small percentage of the total distance and a very small percentage of the time that you will run. To worry that part of it, going up is really a waste of time. It’s painful, especially when you’re running really hard or worse, you’re having a bad day. And you come to this bridge, and you see you have to climb that thing. In the years that I’ve been doing it competitively, I’ve never looked down. I’m always looking at the top of that bridge because I want to see where my destination is. And I project myself to the top of this bridge. And I believe the eyes are the driving forces of your psychology and when you see where you need to go, even if it’s 120 or 140 feet up. You have to go there.”

Runners can still register for the Gate River Run here.

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