The Race is On
December 20th, 2018 by Pamela A. Keene

Participants in New Smyrna Beach Shark Bite races sometimes don costumes.
Photo by James Freeman/Almost There Photography

Florida in January is a great time to participate in a 1-mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon road race.

Running calendars in the Sunshine State are filled with opportunities, whether you are a die-hard competitor or just looking for a reason to get out and enjoy the cooler temperatures with friends.

Runs on the beaches, through parks, along trails, on roadways or through downtown streets offer runners and walkers of all levels the chance to get exercise or compete for prizes, medals or the sheer satisfaction of completing the course. Competitors wear race T-shirts with pride.

Many 5K and 10K races include a walking category for people who want to try out road races, so you don’t need to be a star athlete.

From events that raise money for charity to those sponsored by schools and scout groups, the choices offer fun and fitness.

Now it its fourth year, New Smyrna Beach’s Shark Bite Half Marathon and 5K RunWalk draws participants from across Florida. The certified road race starts and finishes at the Flagler Avenue Boardwalk and crosses two bridges, with views of the Intercoastal Waterway, the Atlantic Ocean and two historic districts. Some runners dress up in costumes. Others bundle up when there’s a cold snap. Most importantly, people come out for a good time.

For the serious athlete, check out for nearly 20 marathon and half-marathon races in Florida during January. Many of these races offer shorter distances, too, and even relays.

January is just the beginning of a year filled with athletic events for people of all ages and abilities.

For information about road races throughout the state, visit

Best Winter Beaches in Florida and Beyond recently listed its picks for best winter-time beaches. Several from Florida made the list: Siesta Beach on Siesta Key near Sarasota, known for its soft white-quartz sand; Miami Beach and South Beach, for the party set; Sanibel Island near Clearwater, for being low-key and great shelling; Pensacola Beach, for affordability; and Dry Tortugas National Park off Key West, for untouched beaches and good snorkeling.

Picks just a short trip from Florida include Trunk Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands for snorkeling, azure water and soft white sand; Nassau, Bahamas, for scuba diving at Trinity Cave and the Blue Hole; Culebra, a small island about 17 miles east of Puerto Rico, for snorkeling in the Luis Pena Channel Natural Reserve to see stingrays and sea turtles; Gulf Shores, Alabama, known for its festivals; and Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island in Georgia, with ancient tree trunks and driftwood.

Musicians’ Homes Preserved for History
Several renowned musicians have Florida roots. The homes of a few have been preserved to honor their accomplishments.

Ray Charles’ boyhood home in Greenville was saved from demolition and restored in 2009. It is located in the Florida Panhandle about three miles off I-10 at exit 241. Charles lived in the small home from birth until his mother died when he was 15. Today, a historical marker details his life and the importance of the location. To visit the home, call Greenville City Hall at (850) 948-2251.

In Jacksonville, the childhood home of the Van Zant brothers—Ronnie, Donnie and Johnny, otherwise known as founders of Lynyrd Skynyrd—is designated by a historical marker. Jacksonville entrepreneur Todd Smith bought the home and placed the marker in May 2018. The home is not open for tours, but fans can drive by 5419 Woodcrest Road to read the marker.

Florida native and travel enthusiast Pamela A. Keene is a freelance journalist who specializes in travel, gardening, personality and feature writing. She is also a photographer and accomplished sailor. Her website is