Big Beach Marathon & Half Marathon Review

The Big Beach Marathon Review and Half Marathon

Alabama’s Gulf Shores stretches across the Gulf of Mexico coast. The city itself has a little bit of everything – white sandy beaches, incredible parks, trails, restaurants, and all of the typical tourist activities. 

While I’m sure it’s a busy and bustling place in the summer months, it was surprisingly quiet and seemingly empty in January when we arrived for the Big Beach Half Marathon. 

The weather wasn’t necessarily what one might have in mind when trying to “escape the winter.” I ran the race in January 2020 and it was rainy and 50°F the entire weekend. Something, I later learned, was on-brand for January in Alabama. 

So, if you thought running a half marathon in a southern state would be a tropical experience with palm trees and mai tais, you might want to look into the Miami Half Marathon. 

While this race might not make the best winter beach vacation, it’s scheduled annually at a time where you’re guaranteed to have near perfect weather for half marathon running.

Related: 2024 Alabama Half Marathon Calendar

The Big Beach Half Marathon Race Experience

Starting at the beginning of the half marathon packet pickup, the entire experience around this race is an absolute party

In 2020, the packet pickup was hosted at a local bar and restaurant called The Hangout, also the location of the start and finish of the race the next day. In my experience, the start and end at the restaurant was the perfect location to get the race excitement started.

The logistics of the race morning were simple and well-organized.

The Race Size

Size-wise, Big Beach is what I would consider a small-to-medium sized race with 1,300 participants total across all distances: the Big Beach Marathon, Half Marathon, 7K and other shorter race options. And, because of the smaller race numbers, I also found that the starting line wasn’t overly crowded or chaotic like you’ll find at the more popular half marathons in the US where you’ll find yourself pushing and shoving 20,000 other runners.

The Course

The half marathon course itself was absolutely beautiful, unique, and incredibly memorable. 

Starting on the streets of Gulf Shores along the beach, we ran for just about one mile before crossing over the pedestrian bridges of the Gulf State Park. From there, we ran stretches of bridges over swampy marsh, surrounded by beautiful nature reserves.
The miles passed so quickly.

A few notable parts of the race course:

  • Mostly Flat: The total gain over the 13.1 mile course is only 154 feet.
  • Park Views: Miles 2 through 6 are on Coyote Crossing and Gulf Oak Ridge Trails through the Gulf State Park. 
  • Waterfront: Miles 8 through 13 have views of both the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf State Park, a public park of 6,500 acres.
  • Looped Course: With a start and finish at local restaurant The Hangout.

It’s a looped course, so we eventually made our way back with the beach in our sights with the finish at the Hangout.

The most exciting of all, the race promises a Big Beach Party Palooza afterwards – and it absolutely delivers. I’ve raced in nearly every state across the country and the Big Beach Half Marathon finisher party was one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

The party included live music, colorful leis, and local Bushwacker drink, which is a delicious frozen alcohol-infused milkshake. The perfect reward after a race.

The Big Beach Half Marathon Review Highlights

Why you might love this race:

  • #1 The Post-Race Party. Of all the half marathons we’ve run, this finisher party is either the best one or second best we’ve ever participated in.
  • #2 The Course: A beautiful course makes this a half marathon worth traveling for.
  • #3 The Perfect Size: 1,300 runners is a race size that won’t overwhelm or underwhelm any level of runner.

Why you might not love this race:

  • #1: The Weather: If you’re looking for a winter half marathon to escape the cold weather to something tropical, you might want to look into another half marathon.
  • #2: Limited local attractions and food: If you’re looking for a destination race that either puts you smack dab in the middle of bustling iconic cities like Paris or New York, this might not be for you. Gulf Shores, while beautiful, lacks in a ton of exciting options.

Our Big Beach Marathon Review Score


What does this rating mean, exactly?

The review system is not a metric of how good a race is. For different folks, there are different strokes.

Our goal is to create high-quality editorially-driven reviews of races from our network of runners who have experienced a lot of races. Our review system comes down to how likely we are to recommend the race to another runner. Out of 10 people who ask us whether they should run the race or not, we’d recommend it to 7.4/10 people. There’s just 2.6 people we think would enjoy a different race in Alabama.

The higher quality the production, the course, and overall experience – the more likely we are to recommend it.

Who Ran And Reviewed the Big Beach Half Marathon

This review was written by Amy Haas, founder of Race Across The States.

Amy is on a mission to run a half marathon in every state & has already completed 47/50. She expects to complete her final three states in 2024. Amy is also the founder of AIM Virtual, a fitness community that offers a variety of strength and running challenges & programs for all levels

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