Nowhere in the world have I seen people run so much. They are trotting along Pensacola’s Bayfront, through our historic streets, on the beach sidewalks, and at the treadmills on the gym. It almost makes you feel like if you’re not doing it, there’s something wrong with you. So, I jumped on the bandwagon, and I started running when I moved here 15 years ago. I’m not a marathon runner. I haven’t made it to that level…yet. I can and will do a 5K, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I participate in our abundance of local races more so for the after parties! They give me something to look forward to when I’m on that last stretch…and dying. One of Pensacola’s running gurus, Paul Epstein, says I shouldn’t be embarrassed because I basically run for the party. Epstein says running in Pensacola has become much more popular because of its social side. More than ten years ago, Epstein and his wife had a vision to centralize running equipment with training while also promoting the social benefits, and they do that at their store Running Wild. Their passion for the sport coupled with the efforts of the Pensacola Runners Association and the Pensacola Sports Association have made Pensacola a year-round FUN running town. You can’t go downtown on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night in Pensacola and not “run” into a running club that is finishing up and then enjoying a cold one at either World of Beer, Seville Quarter or the Pensacola Bay Brewery. It’s a great way to relieve stress, exercise, and socialize. Three must-haves in anyone’s life, right? The runners in the clubs are frequent participants in the many local races Pensacola hosts. What I like is that there is something for every type of runner and so many different races from which to choose. We have races for beginners and long-time marathoners and races that involve kids and promote exercise. We have traditional races where you grab a number, stretch, and run through the streets. We also have the more zany and extreme races-mud runs, zombie runs, night runs and color runs which involve costumes, props, and a willingness to get down and dirty. Runningpensacola.com has a list of all up-and-coming races, including links to where to register, and results from past events. Race directors can also use this free site to further promote their upcoming runs. Whether you’re interested in competitive racing (a must do-the Pensacola Marathon) or just running for fun, you need to sign up quickly, though. Pensacola is becoming a well-know race destination due to the amount of events, our location on award-wining beaches, and a great climate pretty much year-round. And, did I mention we have some of the best after-parties? Who wouldn’t want to finish a race and have a glass of locally brewed green beer or an Irish Wake with an Irish sing-a long and hundreds of people dancing in the streets at the McGuire's 5K Prediction Run? (You’ll have more fun, too, if you dress like a leprechaun). Or you can run over two bridges, looking at beautiful blue waters with the beach waiting for you at the finish line along with an island style party and live entertainment when you participate in the Pensacola Double Bridge Run. The Double Bridge Run is a 15K and 5K on Saturday, February 7. The McGuire's 5K Prediction Run is March 14, beginning outside of the famous restaurant on Gregory Street in downtown. It’s a crazy good time-one of the most fun parties I’ve been to on St. Patrick’s Day. Other fun races on the horizon are the Flora Bama 5K and ½ Marathon Beach Walk and Run on March 21. You start and end in the sand behind the famous Flora-Bama Lounge and Package. This one is a fundraiser where all entry fees go toward the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. On the same day is the Blue Angels Rock N Fly 5 K and 1/2 Marathon. Posts to the Facebook page stress that this is not a race but “an adventure” with a rockin’ rock star theme featuring stages, music, karaoke…and a contest to decide who has the best mullet. Looks like fun when you check out this video. A more competitive race is the Gulf Coast Half Marathon, listed by Competitor Magazine as a “Must-DO” race. It’s Sunday, April 12, on Pensacola Beach, and you have to love the motto: “Life’s a Beach. Go Run It.” I agree! So, I hope you run on over to the Pensacola Bay Area for some exercise and fun times.