Races in Northwest Florida
September 10, 2021
Run. Swim. Cycle. Repeat
Maybe you come to Northwest Florida beaches for some seriously needed time away. Lounging on the crystal white beaches along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico or shopping at Grand Boulevard is about as busy as you want to be during your stay. Some of you might like a little more activity, perhaps a stroll along the beach or a leisurely bike ride through Destin or along 30A to liven things up. Still, others see vacation differently and look for fun races in Northwest Florida to keep active. So we put together a roundup of races, marathons, and triathlons for when you get the itch for some competitive exercise.
Whether you enjoy swimming, biking, running, or all three, we’ve got plenty to choose from along Northwest Florida beaches. From Pensacola to Panama City, you’ll find many opportunities to get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and test yourself in new and exciting ways.
Let us mention that while we are here to give you the scoop on the many races in Northwest Florida, please click the links below to learn more about the event, such as dates and registration. Ready, set, go!
Races in Northwest Florida by Area
Pensacola Races and Triathlons
As the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, the “City of Five Flags” has a rich history and diverse culture with art, entertainment, and attractions drawing visitors annually. It’s also surrounded by 50 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, and the temperature, climate, and landscape present ideal conditions for outdoor activities all year long.
There’s no better way to see Pensacola up close and personal than on a 15K run through town. Pass downtown Pensacola and the historic district, then onto scenic Bayfront Parkway, and finally Pensacola Beach. Of course, you’ll traverse two bridges along the way, one over Pensacola Bay and the other over the Santa Rosa Sound, but DJs scattered along the way provide lively entertainment and motivation to complete this Pensacola race. If a 15K seems daunting, try the 5K, and cheer others along as they head towards the finish line!
Pensacola Beach sets the stage for this USAT-sanctioned triathlon, featuring a 600-yard swim in the Gulf of Mexico, a 21-kilometer bike ride along Pensacola Beach, and a 5-kilometer run through beautiful neighborhoods. The event has grown from a few hundred athletes in its first year to nearly 1,500 participants and is renowned for being highly organized, well-staffed, and great for athletes of all levels—an excellent choice for your first Tri!
Located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay, “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” is known for its beautiful beaches and friendly locals. Eighty percent of the Emerald Coast’s 4.5 million annual visitors come to experience the splendor of this community, many returning each year to participate in Destin races.
Beginning at the Back Porch in Destin, the Jetties serve as the halfway point on this out-and-back course, an estimated 5.8 miles. Race distance varies depending on where you run in the sand. Along the shore is more manageable, although the distance is longer due to a curved shoreline. The more direct, albeit challenging, route sees runners in softer sand away from the shore. Pick your path, get ready to sweat, and challenge yourself in ways unimaginable!
A tradition in the area and one of the many events associated with the Destin Fishing Rodeo, the event kicks off at Clement Taylor Park on beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay. The course meanders through historic Destin neighborhoods, eventually returning to the park for post-race festivities, including raffles, food, beverages, and beer. What’s not to love?
30A Races and Marathons
Nestled along the panhandle of Northwest Florida lies Scenic Highway 30A, a two-lane road running parallel to the Gulf of Mexico. Whether participating in a short run or a heartier race, you’ll find the quaint beach communities surrounded by longleaf pines, coastal dunes, and the emerald waters of the Gulf provide the perfect backdrop and a welcome distraction. We have to say, 30A provides some of the most eclectic themes out of all the races in Northwest Florida!
- What started as a fun bike ride among friends, the Witches of South Walton bike ride has grown into an eagerly anticipated event with hundreds of participants annually. Sport your witchiest costume, grab a bike, and join in the fun for this 2.2-mile ride beginning at Gulf Place in Santa Rosa Beach. The first stop is an elementary school to greet the children, then onto Scenic Highway 30A for a leisurely, fun ride. The post-ride brunch adds to the festivities, and the announcement of winners for Most Witchy Outfit, Wackiest Cackle, and Best Broom (bike) is always entertaining!
- Pick your distance for the 30A Half Marathon and 5K, beginning at the town center in Santa Rosa Beach, then traveling along Scenic Highway 30A, passing Blue Mountain Beach and WaterColor along the way. Enjoy gorgeous views on this fast and flat course, and bring along family and friends to cheer you on. In our opinion, just finishing this 30A race will offer runners some serious bragging rights, but you be the judge!
- Enjoy the serene views throughout the community on the Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K, a course that sees locals and visitors returning annually, many bringing the next generation to partake. The 5K takes runners through WaterColor and Grayton Beach, while the half marathon extends to Seacrest Beach. The event weekend kicks off with Taste of the Race, a popular culinary event with live music and a silent auction, followed by a race Expo the following day. Earning a reputation for great swag, participants eagerly anticipate their race t-shirt and signature Vera Bradley bag.
- Stunning Rosemary Beach presents the perfect backdrop for the Run for the Rosemary 5K fun run and walk specifically crafted to showcase the community. Commencing at the east end of Scenic Highway 30A, you’ll pass lovely parks, lush gardens, and gorgeous homes along the route.
- With several length choices, the 30A 10K, 5K, and 1-Mile Fun Run in Rosemary Beach consistently ranks as one of America’s top five Thanksgiving races. No matter the event, you’ll appreciate the natural beauty and eye-catching scenery along 30A. Reference the website before the event for training programs, nutrition suggestions, and healthy recipes. Post-race, reward yourself with Thanksgiving dinner and all the fixings at Cuvee 30A!
Panama City Beach Races, Triathlons, and Marathons
Earning the moniker “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches,” this family-friendly vacation destination is located halfway between Pensacola and Tallahassee. The sun, sand, and sea prevalent year-round make conditions ideal for some of the more challenging events in the area.
Test your limits on one of the flattest courses in the Ironman circuit, composed of a 1.2-mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, a 56-mile bike ride through the Florida pines, culminating in a 13.1-mile run amid enthusiastic spectators providing support and encouragement. For double the fun, try the Ironman Florida, which sees each event in the Ironman 70.3 times two! Although not for the faint of heart, you’ll find the temperate climate, fast course, and beautiful scenery make it a little easier going. Yeah, easy for us to say.
You’ll find something for the whole family in beautiful Panama City Beach. Attracting thousands annually and a Boston qualifier it’s a great way to explore the community and take in the gorgeous surroundings. Prizes are awarded to the top three finishers in each event, with overall finishing awards and ribbons for the Kids Fun Run participants.
Ready to Race Along Northwest Florida Beaches?
If your idea of the perfect vacay involves nothing more strenuous than picking up a refreshing cocktail, we totally get it. But if you seek a diverse range of athletic events and activities, look no further than the Emerald Coast for your next adventure!
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