The Thirty-A Review January 2021

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The Race is On Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K b y D e n i s e K . J a m e s

T hat feeling of the earth beneath your feet and fresh air inside your lungs must be why runners love their sport. And for the last two decades, another great feeling has graced runners and walkers in the town of Seaside: the knowledge they’re supporting a worthy cause and local, innovative education options during the Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K. This year, the Seaside Half Marathon and 5K will look a little different in the era of COVID-19. The all-virtual event promises to be just as spirited and transformative for Seaside Neighborhood School, grades 5 through 8, and Seaside Collegiate School, grades 9 through 12. (Seaside Collegiate—which leases space from Northwest Florida State College—is where Seaside students can experience their first taste of postsecondary education.) “They’re receiving their high school diploma plus an associate’s degree,” notes Teresa Horton, executive director of the Seaside School Foundation. “Students and families don’t pay any tuition fees. The collegiate program is for high school students who desire to undertake college level courses and earn their high school diploma and associate degree. It’s ideal for students who want to get ahead and crave a non- traditional high school experience.” As a public, nonprofit charter organization, Seaside School depends on funds raised through the race and the accompanying “Taste of the Race” local food festival, which raises money specifically for the expanding Seaside Neighborhood School Culinary Garden program. Through this program, students have the opportunity to gain knowledge about food and healthy habits in a neighborhood garden. “The race and Taste of the Race food festival are so important—we count on the events every year to support the operations of the school and provide exceptional learning opportunities for our students,” remarks Horton. She adds that the race is only five years younger than the school itself—2001 and 1996, respectively. “Going virtual this year was not the easiest decision for us,” she admits. “But it’s the safest possible way to have the event. And the safety and security of families and kids matters most. It’s tough to know that we aren’t gathering in person. However, safety guided our decision. And when we come back in 2022, we will celebrate 20 years of the race even longer!” The 2021 virtual race is coming with its own set of perks and things for runners to look forward to. For one

heart rates,” Horton shares. “Runners can track their heart rate using their phone and get a playlist based on personal heart range to run in step with their race pace.” Embarrassed about your running skills? No worries — you can work virtually with one of 11 lululemon of Grayton Beach ambassador coaches in the weeks leading up to the race. “The goal is to have coaches based on different levels of runner abilities and on their personal goals,” Horton notes. Foodies might be wonder- ing how Taste of the Race, one of the most anticipated parts

of the event, will take place in our socially distanced era. Fortunately, an entire restaurant week, featuring a number of delicious establishments, will ensure ev- eryone is able to indulge and support the cause. The Taste of the Race Restaurant Weeks will run in tandem with the race itself, from January 31 to February 14. “Restaurants will give a certain percentage back and have special dishes, drinks, and menu items featured,” Horton says. “We are also planning to have special VIP donor dinners during the weekend of Feb 26 to 28. These dinners will be higher ticket items for a nice meal and good wine. And it’s all going back to support the Seaside School.”

thing, a handy app called RaceJoy will track how fast runners and walkers are moving in real time, as well as give friends and family the opportunity to watch, track, and cheer virtually. Runners and walkers can complete the race any time between February 14 and 28, adding a level of convenience to the event. Renowned designer Vera Bradley has been a sponsor of the race for years, and each participant gets a face mask and a backpack featuring one of her distinct designs, as well as a colorful, custom t-shirt designed by Seaside art teacher Billie Graffey. Perhaps best of all, customized music playlists are part of the plan. “One of the coolest components is a group of the music students who are working on playlists based on

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