Last October, I ran the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon, which marked my third completed half marathon. It was the toughest one yet, because three miles of it were on the beach! However, I still finished, mainly for the genie bottle medal.
If you didn’t know, Cocoa Beach is where the show I Dream of Jeanie takes place. The race is themed after that, complete with a Jeanie and Major Nelson look-alike contest! It’s a half marathon that fans of the show and of the Space Coast love! If you aren’t turned off by the three-mile sand run or just want to hear about my challenging experience with it, read on to find out everything about the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon.
Registration and Preparations
You can register for the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon almost a year in advance, and that is when the price is the lowest. Registration for 2020 starts at $73 and goes up to $103. They do randomly have sales throughout the year, like on Jeanie’s birthday. If you are interested in signing up, join the email list to be notified of deals. I definitely recommend signing up by the end of August, when the race increases in price to the highest point.
After signing up, it is time to start training! This was my third half marathon, but it was by far the hardest! The weather is still pretty humid in mid-October when it happens, and I cannot stress how difficult the beach portion is. I try to stick to the Hal Higdon methods for training, which usually start 12 weeks prior to the race. If you are really serious, I would recommend doing some beach 5K’s or even running the local Run the Tide 10K.
If you are coming from anywhere besides the Space Coast, you should reserve a hotel. The Hilton Cocoa Beach is where the buses leave from in the morning to get to the starting line so that is the most convenient. However, there are plenty of other great hotels and Airbnb’s in Cocoa Beach. Just make sure you stay in the beach side area for an easy race morning.
Packet Pickup and the Race Morning
The day before the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon is the Health & Fitness Expo where you can pick up your packet. Unfortunately, this is the only day to get them besides race morning, during the hours between 11 AM to 5 PM. This is another reason why it makes sense to stay in Cocoa Beach if you are coming from out of town. We were attending the Rocky Water Brew Festival the day before so we did not manage to make it to the expo. However, Andrew, my Dad and I all ran this and did not have any issues picking our packets up in the morning
You are instructed to park at the Hilton Cocoa Beach, so we got here at 5:30 AM to pick up our packets. You would probably be fine getting there at 6 AM, but I wouldn’t push it any later since the race starts at 7 AM and you have to take a bus to the starting point. The race has a different start and end point, which is nice because I hate down and backs. It starts at a Patrick Air Force beach and there’s barely any parking there, so they bus everyone down. The only downside is that they made you pay $15 for parking, cash only. Luckily, we had cash on us, because we rarely do and I am not sure where we would have parked otherwise!
After getting our packets, we were quickly bussed down to Patrick Air Force base where we waited for around an hour for the race start. There are plenty of porta-potties as well as a water station if you need some. We checked out the beach for a minute, although it was still dark.
The Cocoa Beach Half Marathon Experience
At 7 AM, it was time to line up and the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon started at 7:15. The first eight miles are spent running north up A1A. There’s not a lot to see through mile three with the exception of a few glimpses of the ocean. It was pretty light out by the time I got done a 5K and I enjoyed passing by some known Cocoa Beach landmarks.
The halfway point is at the Hilton Cocoa Beach, and if you are doing the relay this is where you switch. I had been avoiding the water stations up until this point, which were every mile and a half, but finally decided to at the half way. This ended up being a mistake that led to me getting cramps and walking at least once a mile for the second half of the race.
I think that would have been unavoidable though considering how hard the course is after that! At the eight-mile point, you hit the Ron Jon surf shop and then do a one mile down and back to the beach entrance. From here, miles 9, 10 and 11 are all on the sand!
Running on the sand after running nine miles was even harder than I thought! My ankles were experiencing a weird cracking feeling and the sand was just so soft. I started switching between walking and running each minute for pretty much the entire part on the sand.
The only good thing is when you finally get off the beach, it is such a relief! I ran the last mile a lot faster than the first six and was so happy when I made it to the pink carpet finish line. Finishing a race is always a rewarding feeling, but I felt especially happy to finish this one! The genie in the bottle medal was the cherry on top.
After the race, there’s a party at Lori Wilson Park for the runners. I was excited to see Florida Beer Company beer and cider available to drink. They weren’t even taking drink tickets, so you could have as much as you want!
For food, there were a bananas and mini cliff bars, but the main offering was pizza. This was from Pizza Gallery and Grill and a lot of races have it. I ended up feeling woozy and had to eat some, but it was pretty meh. It’s hard to keep the pizza warm for these things!
Andrew placed for his age group, so we decided to wait for the awards ceremony. Before it, they had I Dream of Jeanie trivia which was fun to hear. The I Dream of Jeanie And Major Nelson look alike contests were also done and it was crazy to see how many people dressed up! I, for one, could not run half a marathon in a genie costume!
The age group winners all received a small stemless wine glass with the cocoa beach half marathon logo on it. It was a cute trinket! We left shortly after and it was a short walk to the cat car. It had gotten extremely hot and sunny at this point, so make sure spectators wear sunscreen too!
Know Before You Go: Cocoa Beach Half Marathon
I could not find much info about this race before I ran it, so I figured I would write a post after my experience. Hopefully, this was helpful for anyone running the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. I think this race is a lot of fun and has some really cute touches, but it will not be an annual one for me. The sand part is just to tough! It’s definitely a race every local should attempt once, just don’t plan on getting a PR. Here’s a short summary of my Cocoa Beach Half Marathon tips.
- The Cocoa Beach Half Marathon includes a 13.1 mile race only, with the option of doing a two person relay
- There is a three-and-a-half-hour time limit for finishing the race
- The race starts at Patrick Air Force Base and finishes at Lori Wilson park in Cocoa Beach
- Three miles of this race is on the sand. There are 8 water and Gatorade stations, as well as a few with bananas and gels.
- Race registration ranges between $73 and $103. It includes a shirt, a hat, a genie bottle finisher medal and food and beer at the finish line.
Have you ever ran a race on the beach before? It was way harder than I expected! For more ideas for things to do in Cocoa Beach , check out my Space Coast Travel Guide!