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Athletes with and without disabilities team up for Gate River Run 15K

More than 8,000 runners laced up their sneakers Saturday morning for the 44th annual Gate River Run.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — More than 8,000 runners laced up their sneakers Saturday morning for the 44th annual Gate River Run. A special group of athletes braved the cold and wind to have the experience of a lifetime. 

“It was windy today," runner Mike Carter said. 

The runners stretched, warmed up, and got ready for the windy run. 

“I could go out there and finish in the middle of the pack, and it doesn’t matter," Carter said. 

Personal best times didn't matter because a group of runners were teamed up with an athlete who has a disability and they became a pair for the race.

“A lot of us are experienced runners, so we’re just adding a little bit to the difficulty with pushing our teammates," Carter said. 

Mike Carter is a seasoned runner and spent the morning with Krista Velez.

“He was awesome," Velez said. 

“She’s a great running partner," Carter said. "We actually just met this morning. She got here right before the gun went off.”

The teams ran in specially-designed racing chairs. 

Hitting the pavement brings a sense of accomplishment to the athletes with and without disabilities. It's a day they say they'll always remember.

“It’s a great opportunity in 2021 to put more focus on inclusion," Carter said. 

“I was happy and excited at the same time," Velez said. 

Two non-profits, the Ability Experience and Challenge Enterprises of North Florida, made the day possible.