The Space Coast Marathon is held after Thanksgiving each year on the Atlantic coast of Florida in the beautiful town of Cocoa. It is Florida’s longest, continually running, annual marathon. The name and space theming stem from it’s proximity to Cape Canaveral and NASA. The Space Coast Marathon is a well ran, friendly, mid-sized race with great scenery and the extra space themed fun factor. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should register to run the Space Coast Marathon.
***As with real estate, it begins with location, location, location.***
Location: 1 hour from Orlando Theme Parks. Cocoa Village is an easy 1 hour drive from Walt Disney World. The year I ran, I worked it into our Disney vacation. I requested same day packet pick-up and drove over from Disney’s Beach Club Resort the morning of the race. After the race, it was back to the parks. Walking around the parks actually helped decrease soreness.
- Location: Cape Canaveral/Port Canaveral. Just minutes away is Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center where you can explore the Space Shuttle Atlantis, experience a flight simulator, wander through museums on space exploration and more. Port Canaveral is the popular launch site for many Bahamian and Caribbean cruises, which would be great pre or post race rest.
Location: The Florida Coast is a great family travel destination. Lounge on beautiful nearby beaches. Go deep sea fishing. Watch sea turtles. Cocoa Beach is just minutes away, and Vero Beach is only an hour drive.
Space Theme: Space theming abounds! The race begins with a countdown simulating a space shuttle launch. Volunteers wear NASA like uniforms. Props and water stations along the route are space themed. All participants receive a Moon Pie (the official snack of the Space Coast Marathon) in their packet. Finishers are given “Space Shuttle” medals and a “Space” certificate. Space themed running costumes are encouraged. Runners don outfits ranging from Star Trek to NASA to Buzz Lightyear. The best two space outfits win prizes. This all adds up to light, whimsical feel.
The coarse: The race begins in Cocoa Village. The first half is an out and back to the north; the second half an out and back to the south. The village is a quaint, coastal town with shops and cafes. Much of the run is along the Indian River/Intercoastal Waterway. While there are no beach views, you can see the water, smell the salt in the air, and watch pelicans and seagulls. The route passes through streets lined with palm trees, bougainvilleas, dangling Spanish moss., and beautiful homes with manicured lawns. It is a treat for the eyes.
- Flat, fast coarse: If the weather cooperates, then this is a race to set a personal best. It is flat (this is Florida after all), but there is enough variation to keep the legs fresh. The coarse is also mostly straight. There is adequate shade to keep the sun from draining your energy, too. My personal best at that time was set here.
- Easy spectator viewing: with Cocao Village being the start, midway point, and finish for the Space Coast Marathon, family members can cheer you on three times from the same location. In between, they can shop, play in the park, or enjoy the festivities.
- Weather: While much of the rest of the country is preparing for the long winter deep freeze and gray skies, central Florida is still pleasant with average lows and highs of 53 and 73. There is obviously be a range of possible conditions, but it will not be freezing! The year I ran, it was 68 at the start, but only rose 2-3 degrees with clouds and some rain. An East wind blew in off the water making it feel a little more comfortable.
- Volunteers and Spectators: The Cocoa Village area is thick with spectators and as mentioned above is encountered three times. Spectators are scattered throughout the rest of the coarse. There were several graciously offering relief from the heat with water hoses. There were plenty of friendly volunteers who were vocal in there support. The race provided a couple of cooling stations, too.
Swag and afterparty: The extras are impressive. The medal is large. The race Tee is nice. I was pleasantly surprised by the Space Coast beach towel. Finishers are given a pancake and egg breakfast and/or pizza and beer. This is much better than the usual bagels and bananas! Awards are given to those who place in their age group. Best costume awards ($25 and $50) are given based on applause. A drawing is held for a “One Day Space Adventure” at the Kennedy Space Center for a family of 4. You can shower at the local YMCA.
If you are a Florida native, a snowbird, a Disney vacationer, a 50 stater, or are just looking for a late autumn marathon, then you need to give the Space Coast Marathon a look. Come as Mr. Spock or Princess Leia or just come as yourself and enjoy the atmosphere. The Space Coast Marathon offers you a fun race that is easy to incorporate into your family travel plans.
This year’s race is ran on November 29, 2015. Find more details and register at http://www.spacecoastmarathon.com
**Pictures for this article were lifted (borrowed) from the Space Coast Marathon and Go.Disney official websites.