Even though Mike Clark lives and works in North Carolina with Junction 311, an endurance events developer, the business owner is originally from Mobile.
“I grew up going to Gulf Shores as anyone down here does. I remember when it was a sleepy beach town. Now, it has grown into one of the hottest destinations in the U.S.”
“While at work trying to develop a new race, I instantly said, ‘what about Gulf Shores’ and my team got to it. Since I had not been down in a while, I did not know they had placed trails in the state parks. Once we discovered that, we immediately started planning the Big Beach Marathon. I loved everything about it. Not only did we get to expand the company, but I got to come back to my roots.”
The first Big Beach Marathon was held in 2016, and the rest is runner’s history.
“We started the base planning remote here in N.C., but we had help from the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports & Events team. They connected us quickly with the city and helped us tremendously. They helped us get permits, obtain information, and more. That team is such as asset to not only this area as a whole, but to us.”
However, the team needed a “WOW” factor to start and end the race. Luckily, Clark had the perfect location in mind.
“We had to start at The Hangout. It is an iconic venue in Gulf Shores right on the end of the road and it made sense."
The Hangout also aided in another area for the marathon–the post-race celebration.
“We were also looking for someone to host the post-race celebrations. In doing so we knew we needed food, a band, outside vendors, and more. But, The Hangout has been amazing. We partnered with them and they supply all of the post-race celebration events for us.”
Another big partner of the marathon’s is the Gulf State Lodge.
“Since the Gulf State Lodge finished building, they have been an amazing asset to us. There, we do the expositions and the packet pick up on-site. They do a lot for us, and it makes our life a lot easier as well.”
In choosing the course, since it is a Boston qualifier, the planning has to be exact.
"We knew that we had to start and end at The Hangout and of course we wanted to use the trails nearby at the Gulf State Park. So, we start at The Hangout, go up to the trails, run the trails, then cross the pedestrian bridge to cross back over the road to get back to The Hangout."
However, even though The Hangout is utilized, Clark says all partners help play such an important role in the race building.
“Based on what we did last year, our numbers are substantially a few hundred above. We are expecting around 1500-1600 runners this year for a great turnout.”
“Keller-Williams is also a large sponsor for us. They do so much to help the race run very smoothly. Keller-Williams also helps us kick-off the weekend of events.”
The best part for the island, though, in addition to the large number of tourism dollars the race brings in, are the people who love the Boston Marathon qualifier so much, they make our paradise their home.
“People who have never been there before do not even know Alabama has beaches. We have actually had different families who have completed or attended the race before move to the area.”
Not only do people love the race, they love our area and the people who make it up. They love the southern hospitality of our area. They love the weekly specials at our restaurants that only the locals know about. They love the island, and they love us.