- 13.1/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon
- Road Race
I really enjoyed the New Jersey Marathon, I was expecting a good event but had read several negatives in prior reviews so I came into the race a little unsure of what to expect. The expo was very small, but it was proportionate to the size of the race. I actually really enjoy spending time walking through expos and seeing the different events being promoted and some of the new gear that's available. So, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more going on at this expo, but it was in keeping with the size of the event. This expo did have the unique aspect of being held at the Monmouth Park race track and that made up for the lack of size. I'm not a big horse racing fan, but that track was obviously very old and had a ton of history. I probably spent almost an hour wandering around the grounds with everything being completely wide open. That was a neat experience.
The morning of the race I got up very early so that I could get on the road from my hotel and to the parking area. Almost every prior review I read made comments about how awful the traffic situation was getting to the parking area with several people saying the traffic was so bad they advised leaving with 2 hours to spare. I made it onto the road with a little over an hour and a half before race time and breezed right into a parking spot so whatever issues they have had in the past must have been resolved and I got about 30 minutes of nice quiet time in the car.
The weather on race morning was fantastic, about 58 degrees and mostly overcast. There was a cool front coming in and the temperatures actually fell slightly during the race. There was a decent breeze that was fairly sustained during the race, but it wasn't terribly bad, I spent the last 7 miles running into it but it was more cold than anything else.
The course was good, I was expecting a huge bottleneck at the beginning that never materialized, I guess we should take all reviews with a grain of salt (this one included). The course started with a little uphill climb that flattened out quickly and represented all of the elevation change on the first half. The first half went through some nice neighborhoods and some urban area, a nice mix of things to see. The half marathoners split off between 11 and 12 and I went from running with a decent group to being by myself, there was a huge difference in half and full runners in this race. Just after the split, the elite runners started to pass me going the other way on the opposite side of the road (yes, I am that slow). This was the first indication of how long the out and back section was going to be. I happened to notice the back of the mile 23 marker while watching the elites and wanting to see the front of that marker was stuck in my head for the next 2 hours. The course made its way down to the boardwalk with some fairly nice downhill stretches which would become uphills into the wind on the way back. The turn around point didn't come until between miles 18 and 19 and it was a sharp turn which was not terribly welcome. As much as that long of an out and back is hard to deal with mentally, it is a tremendous boost when you finally hit that turnaround and are headed home. After the turnaround the course spends a lot of time on the boardwalk along the ocean which is really nice. It was amusing to see all the tourists who had no idea they had wandered into a marathon while out on the boardwalk. I spent more time along the ocean in this marathon than I did at Rock&Roll San Diego so kudos to New Jersey for all the ocean front running. The finish was well organized with boxed water instead of bottled which I had only seen once before when I ran San Francisco so good to see the east coast being a little proactive environmentally. I finished in 4:48 which is a 10 minute PR for me so this will be a course I remember very fondly.
Now for the massive negative for this event. The race is point to point so you park at the start and there are shuttles to take you back to the start line after you finish. First, there were no signs in the finisher area indicating where the buses were located and it was a bad sign that they weren't close enough that you could see them. Myself and a couple of other runners got with the local police and they were able to direct us to the shuttle bus area which was at least a 3/4 mile walk from the finisher area. Then the buses themselves didn't drop the runners off in the runner parking lot, we were dropped off on the other side of the race track and had to walk almost another mile to get to our vehicles. My step counter had me at almost 31 miles for the day by the time I got back to my car. This is a great event that really does a great job for the runners, but with so many people needing the shuttles to get back to their cars it shouldn't be such an afterthought. That, however, does not come close to dampening my enthusiasm for this event, it was well run and an enjoyable course, well worth the trip to Jersey.