With big-city amenities, 22 miles of pristine coastline and some of the best races in the country, Jacksonville might be Florida’s best kept secret—especially for runners. Strong coffee, an ale trail and exceptional running routes are just some of the draws to this southern city. Its charm, hospitality, ease and affordability make it a top choice for fit people who want to play, beach, eat and repeat.
Take a jog through downtown, and you’ll find that in recent years JAX has exploded into a southern culinary powerhouse. Hidden gems like Black Sheep serve up locally sourced delicacies, while Sweet Pete’s Candy is known for being the largest candy store in the southeast. Travel towards the coast, and you’ll find sleepy beach towns that smell like orange flower blossoms and salt air. There’s nothing better than running some quiet miles with an ocean breeze on roads where you won’t see a car—or hill—for miles.
Jacksonville really earns its running stripes every February, when the city turns into a pink paradise and plays host to DONNA Marathon Weekend, unofficially known as the Breast Cancer Marathon. The full marathon course winds along the shore, with each town throwing a bigger spectator party than the last.
Whether you’re looking for a destination race or just need a runcation, Jacksonville’s got everything you could ask for.
The running options are endless.
Whether you’re in town for 26.2 with DONNA weekend or one of Jacksonville’s other legendary races, a few beautiful warm-up runs will help you see the city’s sights. Downtown, head to San Marco Square and meander around the San Marco neighborhood. You’ll also want to make sure to check out the wild art in Hemming Park—the giant mouth is an easy landmark to meet other runners.
This past year, the DONNA hosted a Friday morning 3-mile loop in Neptune Beach, starting and ending at the quaint Beaches Town Center shopping area.
The city boasts naturally beautiful running areas, including a four-mile out-and-back along the St. John’s River on the Jacksonville Northbank Riverwalk.
But if you don’t feel like going it alone, the running community here is ready to welcome you. Drop by 1st Place Sports to find out what group you can jump into. There is something going on every single day. If you’re in town on Thursday, you can make some lasting friends—and grab a beer after the run—with the members of Running for Brews Jax Beach. This group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. at a different local brewery each week.