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Jacksonville man to run Gate River Run one year after he battled COVID-19 in the hospital

One year ago, Tommy Shapard thought he was going to die from COVID-19. Today, he's training to run a 15K race.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Last March, Tommy Shapard sent videos saying goodbye to his family from his hospital bed, thinking he was going to die from COVID-19.

"It's surreal," Shapard said. "You know, that seems like forever ago," he said.

Today, he's training to run the Gate River Run in March, a 15K race scaled back this year due to COVID-19. 

"When I saw the date, I thought, 'oh my gosh I have to run it. I have to do it that day,'" he said. "So, I did. I signed up for it and wanted to be a part of it."

The date is March 20. It's the same day last year Shapard took himself to the emergency room with COVID symptoms and double pneumonia. He has ran the race three other times, but this year is like none other for obvious reasons. 

"It's empowering. It's encouraging, and I'm just grateful, I'm grateful to be able to do it," Shapard said. "There are a number of goals that I have out there coming up in the next couple months. And that's one of them just to check off the list and accomplish it," he said. 

When he crosses that finish line, he said expect tears.

"Yeah, I'll probably cry. I will, but it will be tears of joy, for sure. Personally, it will be a step for me to cross that finish line. Just to get that medal. That'll be a moment," Shapard said. 

Organizers of the Gate River Run have limited the number of runners this year. Masks are mandatory before the race and there's a second starting line for social distancing.