The 43rd Annual Ascension St. Vincent’s Ortega River Run, a GrandPrix sanctioned race hosted by 1st Place Sports, got off to a great start with 1,283 participants of all ages walking, pushing babies in strollers, jogging or running over the bridges and throughout the course in historic Ortega. The event to benefit St. Mark’s Episcopal School financial aid and scholarship programs kicked off with a spaghetti dinner on Friday night with 200 hundred meals sold and began Saturday morning at 7:30 am with a 1 mile Fun Run culminating in the 5 mile run beginning at 8 am. Participants came from all over town and beyond with Jake Wightman from England taking first place for men in the 5 mile challenge with Sem Sultanov and Christopher McGaffrey of Jacksonville bringing up 2nd and 3rd. Morgan Hull , Kelsey Beckman and Lucrezia Gowdy of Jacksonville took the top 3 spots in women’s. Although there were other winners in the many age categories represented. Runners were required to adhere to Social distance requirements during registration and wear masks when not running.
Talon (the Episcopal Eagles mascot), Episcopal band and cheerleaders, community athletic teams and student volunteers got the runners off to an energetic start while neighbors, family members and residents lined the streets clapping and yelling, offering encouragement, bottled water and popsicles as the participants passed by.
The Historic Ortega River Run is the 4th oldest race in Jacksonville and certainly one of the most anticipated. According to Bernie Powers of Ortega who has run the race since 2000, “I’ve run this race more than any other race I’ve run in Jacksonville. The route from St. Mark’s across the little Ortega Bridge, down Woodmere, Herschel, over the Roosevelt Bridge and down McGirt is fun. The azaleas are always blooming.” Powers trained alone by running three miles around the neighborhood every day for the past year and enjoyed seeing many other runners and walkers doing the same. Ortega River Run was the last race he ran in 2020 (due to covid) and the first race he has run in 2021. Now that serious training has begun again runners will be gearing up for Saturday February 26 for Ortega River Run 2022.
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