Crossing the finish line of the Fort Myers Marathon brings ample rewards. Beyond medals—which go to the top finishers by age and gender—runners get the satisfaction of knowing that they've helped a good cause. Or in this case, several good causes. Proceeds from the race go to non-profit organizations including Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers and the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.
The organizers of Fort Myers Marathon want as many people as possible to get in on the altruism, regardless of how much horsepower their sneakers have. To that end, they let runners register for a full marathon, a half-marathon, and a separate 5K race. Whatever route they choose, racers find ample support along the way. Hydration stations, photographers, and fans line the course.
Runners chase each other through Lover's Key State Park, racing to complete the 10–15 obstacles along the 5K route. The top three male and female participants from each age group will then compete in the Last One Standing challenge to win the grand prize. After the run, racers can watch competitors build magnificent tableaus during the American Sand Sculpting Championship.
It started with a lemonade stand. When seven-month-old Preston was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex––a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form––in 1999, his family knew they wanted to raise awareness and make a difference. Five years later, his seven-year-old sister, Mackenzie, formed a lemonade stand and raised $930 for the TS Alliance. Inspired by their daughter's success, Preston's parents founded Peace, Love, & Lemonade to encourage other kids across the country to run their own lemonade stands in support of friends and family members living with the disease. So far, their combined efforts have raised more than $220,000 for research to cure tuberous sclerosis complex.
As part of these efforts, the annual Peace, Love & Lemonade Color Me Free 5k helps raise funds with a 5K walk or run through North Collier Regional Park. Participants take to the paths at 7 a.m. and they get splattered with colorful chalk as they cross mile markers. After the race, families can relax with a fossil-dig play area, an interactive playground, and park ranger tours.
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Grazing cattle and goats might join human spectators as they watch runners conquer the four-mile Jax R Wild obstacle course. Set to live music, the timed race winds through the gently sloping fields and rugged, rolling woods of the Seminole Tribe Youth Ranch in Immokalee. Every quarter-mile, participants are faced with a new obstacle, such as a mud pit or rope-climb. And as if these obstacles weren't challenging enough, runners are also required to assemble the best poker hand they can using cards they grab at the start, mid-way stations, and the finish area. A post-race party features beer, a barbecue buffet, and a concert (not to mention showers) to reward everyone for their efforts.
The recipe: take 5 miles of mud trails, fill them with more than 25 obstacles, add snow, and serve. The Badass Bash obstacle course is more than a race—it's a battle where competitors learn what they are made of. Across the 5-mile course, participants dash, clamber, and crawl through and over a series of obstacles inspired by firefighter, police, and military training. The favorites are back (Target Practice, Submarine Mines, and Check the Attic, among others), but there's also The Badass Bash's take on holiday cheer: Santa's Sack, Chimney Sweep, Don't Drop the Ornament, and more. But the real kicker is the snow. The event's organizers haul in a bunch of the cold white stuff, adding a chilly but festive note to the high-octane event. While adults are getting their hands dirty, kids 12 and younger can do the same on their own 0.5-mile course, the Kick Butt Kids Elf Bash. After the race, guests can mingle at the after party, which is livened up by free beer and live entertainment.
A portion of the proceeds of The Badass Bash benefits three fire, police, and veterans’ charities. All of the proceeds from the Kick Butt Kids Bash go to Caleb's Crusade, which helps children and families who are battling pediatric cancer.