Pirates Invade SoWal During Treasures of South Walton Adventure Run

October 31, 2012 by Marla Burns

On a picture perfect weekend in October, the normally tranquil coastal forest of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park was invaded by pirates! The inaugural South Walton Adventure Run, sponsored by, was a fun-filled weekend that challenged runners from every skill level. The goal was to raise money for local charities, Food for Thought Outreach and Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

The event kicked off Friday night with a Masquerade Ball at Tops’l Resort, a peaceful location bordered by the beautiful beaches of South Walton.  Attendees dressed in their finest pirate garb and were treated to live music from the Bottoms Up Band, dancing, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction and cash bar. Word is that a huge treasure chest cake donated by Kathy’s Kupcakery was “phenomenal and the treasure of the evening”.

Event organizers, Amy Walsh and Shelley Reifschneider, worked tirelessly to put the event together, and in just four short months were able to pull off the adventure of the year. With help from Joe Thibodeau, owner of Thi Bod Fitness in Santa Rosa Beach, they managed to create a first-class course that even the most seasoned runner found challenging. Joe, an adventure runner himself, designed the course based on his expertise and made sure it was up to the standards of other top adventure runs.

An "adventure run" differs from an ordinary 5K run, as it entails a combination of two or more disciplines, and can include anything from cross-country running and biking, to paddling, climbing, and rope skills, among the challenges the runners face. Adding to the excitement, the participants in this race encountered wacky pirates chasing them to capture golden flags (booty), worn at the waist, with prizes awarded to those with the most booty at the end of the race.

This year’s course featured 10 large obstacles, including a cargo net climb, rock wall climb, rope climb, monkey bars, boulder pull, and the always fun, slosh through a mud pit. There were also 12 smaller obstacles that included hay bales and tires, to name a few.

In its first year, this event garnered 197 entrants for the 5K run, and 50 kids entered for the 1 mile kid run.  Plans are already underway for next year’s adventure run. If this year’s event, organized in just four months, is any example of what Amy, Shelley, and Joe can do, think of what unique excitement they can cook up for next year. They promise it will be even more ‘fun’ (challenging), with bigger obstacles and more laughs!

Click on the link below for the names and finish times of the race participants. Follow Treasures of South Walton Adventure Run on their facebook page and website for future details on the 2nd Annual Treasures of South Walton Adventure Run. If you missed this year’s event, start training for next year so you don’t miss out on one of the most amusing and enjoyable adventures in the area. It’s more fun than a pirate in a bathing suit, a pirate on a surf board, or a pirate in a mud pit… aaargh!

Check this year's race results at

Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park facebook page:

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