Seaside Half Marathon and 5K is for the Kids
February 28, 2011 by Lynn Nesmith
It’s ten o’clock in the morning on the first Sunday in March. Scenic 30A is closed to traffic. There’s not a parking place to be found in Seaside.
Three thousands folks are milling around the Post Office. A band is playing in the amphitheatre. Folks are eating Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q and drinking beer for breakfast.
Nearly everyone has a Vera Bradley tote hanging on his or her shoulder. (There there are just as many hims and hers.) And spring break is not quite here yet.
What the heck is going on?
It’s the Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K Run. Established in 2003 to raise funds for the Seaside Neighborhood School, one of the first public charter middle schools in the state, the Half Marathon and 5K Run quickly grew from a grass-roots community affair to a highly anticipated weekend event drawing more than 3,000 runners from 42 states and five countries. (One past winner hailed from Australia.)
All proceeds benefit The Seaside Neighborhood School and all monies raised enhance local educational programs.
The course, for both the half marathon and 5K, is flat and fast along 30A, starting in Seaside and passing through the beach communities of WaterColor, Grayton, Blue Mountain and Santa Rosa Beach, which is a huge draw.
In addition to the glorious natural setting along the Gulf, there’s another reason to run. In 2003 Vera Bradley, the tremendously popular line of quilted handbags and luggage and colorful accessories, signed on as the presenting sponsor. Over the past eight years, registration has grown by leaps and bounds, filling up months before the event.
Although Vera Bradley’s corporate headquarters are located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, company cofounder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard is a Seaside homeowner and a supporter of various local events. Last year, Barbara presented a certificate to race director Rick Helfand for his generous volunteer efforts and in and the top runners.
But this is one contest where everyone is a winner. All participants receive a Vera Bradley tote bag. That’s incentive enough to pull out the running shoes and start training. And you better believe it’s the motivating factor for quite a few of the racers, including this writer.