Back to the Beach for Bushwacker 5K 2006


By Julie B. Connerley


            Pensacola Beach’s Capt’n Fun Runners have raised thousands of dollars for charitable causes since their first fundraising 5K run on Pensacola Beach in 1987.

In 2000, the island’s largest all-volunteer run, complete with refreshments, trophies, and live music revamped. Under the leadership of Island resident Glenn Windham, fondly known as Mr. Capt’n Fun, the event changed directions with a new course and new charitable cause, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida.

By 2004, a record 1440 participants enjoyed the scenic racecourse, plentiful refreshments, post-race beer and Bushwackers (in conjunction with Jubilee’s annual Bushwacker Festival).

Ironically, less than six weeks later Hurricane Ivan struck Pensacola Beach.  With the Island’s infrastructure decimated, the 2005 Bushwacker 5K was forced to move to a new location, in Downtown Pensacola. Between the loss of hotel accommodations in Pensacola and overall lingering effects of economic downturn from Ivan, last year’s 5K drew 874 runners and walkers.

However, now THEY’RE BACK. Beach businesses, participants, and especially the Capt’n Fun Runners themselves were delighted to welcome the 2006 Bushwacker 5K back to Pensacola Beach August 5.

The event is unique in many ways.  From the gorgeous view atop the Bob Sikes Bridge overlooking Pensacola Beach half-way through the 3.1-mile course, to the custom-designed t-shirts created by award-winning artist, Capt’n Fun Runner, Jean Grabowski, and classic winners’ medallions created by another Capt’n Fun Runner, Terry Pape.

Results Event Timing of Ft. Walton Beach has been scoring the Bushwacker 5K for the past ten years. “A total of 1287 participated,” said Steven “Kei” Keith, of Results Event Timing. “There were 1087 runners, 198 walkers and 2 wheelchairs. 

“We are in the process of evaluating disposable electronic chip timing systems to improve the process,” continued Keith. “They will make the work more efficient and less labor intensive.” The new system is expected to be in place for the 2007 Bushwacker 5K.

Other changes to this year’s event were also made -- some apparent, some not.  Johnny Graves stepped in to take on the role as Race Director from Glenn Windham who has worked tirelessly since the inception of the Capt’n Fun Runners. 

Windham, as the organization’s mentor, has alternately inspired and cajoled its more than 100 members to play as hard as they work to achieve their common goals.

Graves capably steered the volunteers, handling all the last-minute crises with the ease of a pro.  “We started the race on time.  “Who can complain when the race starts when it is supposed to?” he laughed.

"We were a little worried when we got an early weather report from the management over at the Capt'n Fun's," Graves continued. "The wind and lightening were so bad they had to close down before 2:00 the morning of the race, but by race start time the weather was perfect for running."

The transition from Windham to Graves was seamless, and that is, perhaps, the ultimate compliment to both men!

The Capt’n Fun Runners did not disappoint the hundreds who braved the rain-darkened clouds that morning.  Participants received water and cheers of support from tropically attired Island natives with painted faces and friendly spears (woo-hoo on those wind-blown loin cloths), hula-skirted ladies, chicken and flamingo-headed dancers and the ever-present Capt’n Fun mascot, “The Toucan,” who graciously posed for photos. After all, the organization’s motto is “A Good Time for a Good Cause.”

Another change was the awards presentations.  Normally conducted at the boardwalk’s public band shell, the ceremony was moved to the Beachside Stage of Jubilee Restaurant and Entertainment Complex.

Besides the support of the entire Capt’n Fun Runners organization, the Bushwacker 5K, as always, appreciated the lively commentary of special race announcers, Suzy Lyons and Don McClusky.  Contributors to the annual fundraiser included Jubilee Capt’n Fun Beach Club, Domino’s Pizza in Gulf Breeze and Running Wild in Pensacola.

An event of this size, spanning two counties, requires coordination between multiple agencies.  The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department worked closely with the Gulf Breeze Police Department, Pensacola Beach Fire Department and the Santa Rosa Island Authority to ensure the 5K was both a successful and safe event for the thousand-plus that enjoyed it.

Helping celebrate the “back-to-the-beach” Bushwacker 5K were 40 members of the Birmingham Track Club.  Also, many running friends from the New Orleans area who have been long-time supporters of the event brought their smiles and happy feet to the Island.

A complete list of winners and photos can be viewed online at However, the real winners are the children at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, which is the recipient of funds raised at the Bushwacker 5K. “We expect to give between $4,000 and $5,000 this year,” said Graves.

The local agency’s mission is to provide trusted adult interaction to children from single parent families through consistent personal relationships, which encourage the development of the emotional, social, educational and physical well being of the children. It’s good to be back on Pensacola Beach, and all the Capt’n Fun Runners are already planning for next year’s memorable Bushwacker 5K!


Also --->> Articals That Appeared in the Pensacola News Journal:

Tuesday Aug 8th Julie B. Connerley 'Recreation'

Tuesday Aug 15th Paul Epstein 'Recreation On Running'