Each winter, thousands of runners flock like seagulls to the Gulf Coast to participate in a time-honored tradition. Eighteen years ago, a committee of running and sports enthusiasts founded the Pensacola Double Bridge Run.
After negotiating with the Santa Rosa Island Authority and the Cities of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze, the Pensacola Sports Association created the popular road race joining mainland Pensacola with the ‘World’s Whitest Beach.’ The inaugural event featured 12K and 5K runs finishing at the Casino Beach parking lot overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the event offers a 15K run and 5K run/walk.
“The race has grown considerably and is now one of the 15 largest 15K races in the country,” says Jason Libbert, Event Manager for Pensacola Sports Association. “Of the more than 4,250 runners in 2015, 70 percent are from the Pensacola area or within an hour drive. The other 30 percent come from all over the country.”
Libbert believes the Pensacola Double Bridge Run offers one of the best 15K courses in the country and for good reason.
Runners begin at Pensacola’s Community Maritime Park (home of the Blue Wahoos) then make their way through Historic Downtown Pensacola before running over the 3-mile bridge where they may glimpse pelicans diving for fish and dolphins playing in the water.
After coasting through the coastal community of Gulf Breeze, participants race up the Bob Sikes Bridge.
And what a view from the top – with the Santa Rosa Sound on either side and the Gulf of Mexico ahead.
“It’s a truly special moment,” Libbert says, and one he doesn’t take for granted. There’s a lot that goes into hosting an event of this magnitude, but the result makes it all worthwhile. His favorite part? Seeing all the smiling faces at the finish line.
“I work the buses in the morning, so I see the anxious, tired, excited faces,” he says. “Then to see the joy and excitement at the end is great … they have accomplished something. Each person runs for their own reasons but seeing them at the end is what it’s all about.”
– Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels