Hosted by Duval County Public Schools, the event commemorated the district's 150th birthday to symbolize the distance and progress made in public education. The school system has committed to recognize the literary achievements of their students with an annual summer reading celebration, and hope to see this inaugural 5k Spirit Run continue. Proceeds benefited the Duval County Public Schools’ Read it Forward Jacksonville Program.
"Today we are celebrating wellness, community and parent engagement, as well as children's literacy and their hard work and commitment," said Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, Duval County Public Schools superintendent, as he addressed the crowd.
Nearly 1,000 runners participated in the races, which included the Spirit 5k Run — pompoms were available at registration — and a 1-mile Reading is Fun Run, through downtown.
Participants included athletes of all ages and experience, including many Duval County Public School students and alumni and a few CSXers. Charles Robinson, Jacksonville yardmaster, participated in the race at the urging of his daughter, Corran, a District Wellness Support Tech for Duval County Public Schools. Charles runs four times a week and participates in as many wellness programs as he can. He started running three years ago and enjoys the solitude of it and that it helps him stay focused.
CSX is important to the school system, Corran said, because they are a major employer of parents and a partner with several area schools and the district.
“There are not a lot of companies in Jacksonville that have the longevity and history of CSX,” she said. “In celebrating Duval County Public Schools’ 150th birthday, it made sense to team up with the nationally recognized leader in rail-based transportation services. CSX provided us with a wealth of volunteers to support our event. which would not have been possible without their strong support.”
CSX volunteers were strategically placed along the course to help runners cool down at water stations. Participants began their 3.1-mile journey at EverBank Stadium near Metropolitan Park, pounding the pavement all the way to CSX headquarters at 500 Water Street, before turning back and meandering along the riverfront toward the stadium. CSX volunteers, who included employees from throughout the system, also greeted runners, distributed goodie bags, water and meal tickets.
Jeremy Hays, Evansville, Florida, road foreman of engines, was one such volunteer. He brought his son, Rakyn, 12, to participate in the run. Rakyn beat his personal goal of 30 minutes, finishing in less than 28. A student at Helfrich Park Middle School, Rakyn has enjoyed running since second grade, when he began playing football.
"I think it's great that he participates in activities like this," Hays said. "I'm very proud of his achievements and it keeps him active and focused on a healthy life."