Cars gave way to running shoes in the fast lanes of downtown Jacksonville Saturday morning, when hundreds of runners took to the roads for the inaugural One Spark 5K.
For these hardy athletes, who rose early for a warm 9 a.m. start, the race was a rare opportunity to dash across the normally bustling downtown streets past city landmarks including the Duval County Courthouse and Museum of Contemporary Art. The runners completed two laps of a rectangle along Duval, Broad, Adams and Market Streets, beginning and ending at Hemming Park.
Seasoned runners and newcomers alike savored the opportunity to participate in the newest addition to Jacksonville’s annual crowdfunding festival. A pair of Jacksonville’s most experienced competitors took the top prizes, as Marc Burget won the men’s race and Michelle Krueger finished first in the women’s event. “This is a little more festive environment around here,” Burget said. “We run the race and then you’ve got all the festivities after, so we kind of spend the whole afternoon down here at One Spark.”
But unlike events like the Gate River Run that regularly draw elite contenders from around the country, the One Spark 5K targeted its appeal to locals seeking the thrill of distance running in the city they call home.
FSCJ senior Jen Holloway, a converged communications major, spent more than two months training for her first-ever race with plenty of support from experienced classmate Amy Magdalein. When she crossed the finish line for the first time, that grueling effort finally earned its reward. “I think it is a great opportunity as a smaller race,” she said. “It’s not a very long distance, but it’s still a long enough distance that you have a feeling of accomplishment.”
Many of the runners remained to take in the energy of Day 5 at One Spark, as creators prepared their exhibits for the last full day of the festival.