Runners, friends and family participate in the First State Bank Key Largo Bridge Run 5K over Jewish Creek Bridge on Nov. 12, 2022. DOUG FINGER/File Photo

Motorists entering the Florida Keys from the 18-Mile Stretch take in breathtaking views of the island life as they pass over Key Largo’s Jewfish Creek Bridge. It’s an instantaneous feel of breath of relief and a continuous “wow” factor for tourists and locals.

For runners and walkers in this year’s Key Largo Bridge Run, the breaths of salt air and the sights from the bridge under the morning sun will be one to remember. 

Participants from the Keys and beyond will take their mark for the 13th annual First State Bank Key Largo Bridge Run on Dec. 2. The 5K event gives participants the chance to run or walk the final part of the 18-Mile Stretch — the gateway to the Keys. The mostly flat course brings picturesque views overlooking Florida Bay and Barnes Sound.

Bridge runners will take to the start line at 7:30 a.m. from the access road leading to Gilbert’s Resort. From there, they’ll set out on the course that takes them onto Jewfish Creek Bridge. Runners will turn around and head back over the bridge and return to the access road leading to Gilbert’s where they will reunite with friends and family and enjoy music, drinks and food. The race will end around 9:30 a.m.

Organizer of the event, Henry Menendez, of HNO Productions, has been gearing up for the race’s return for many months. The run returned in 2021 after it was canceled in 2020 due to COVID. Menendez said there’s lots of excitement ahead of this year’s race. 

“We continue to strive to promote health and well-being within our community and all over the world,” Menendez said. “In addition, we encourage everyone to take a moment and enjoy the sights from the top of the bridge while admiring one of the most spectacular views of our beautiful island.”

Awards will be presented to the top three male and female finishers, overall masters male and female, as well as to the top three of different age groups. Race T-shirts will be given to the first 500 participants who register. All participants will receive a medal upon completion of their respective race event.

Visit keylargobridgerun.com to register for the run.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.