- 6 miles/10K
- Road Race
I learned about this race at the Atlantic City Half marathon Expo and decided on a whim to sign up. Their finisher shirts, medals, awesome course through PA & NJ, and a finish line in Trenton Thunder stadium were all too cool to pass up!
The sign up experience was an easy online form, and thankfully while I wasn't able to attend the Expo, my cousin did and easily picked up my bib and goodies for me using a copy of my license, no hassles or anything. The race officials were easily reachable too - they responded quickly to any questions I had both via their FB page and Twitter accounts. Kudos to them for being up on social media!!
The only downside to this race was the parking/getting to the start situation. Trenton isn't the easiest city to navigate, especially if you're not familiar with the area. And while the participant guide did everything it could to identify parking lots and help with information regarding shuttles, the actual situation was 100% confusing. There's no exact address given for the 2 free parking lots, but the shuttle leaves from the Wyndham, which is *near* the lots. There are also a handful of other smaller parking lots that all looked the same at 6:15AM when no one else was around, so we ended up parking in the wrong lot. A few strategically placed volunteers or even "This is the Lot" signs would have gone a LONG way, so hopefully they get the message and next year it's a different story. Thankfully we stayed in the car for a good 20 minutes waiting to see if any other runners would arrive, and when we spotted someone in the lot across the street, we moved to that lot no problem.
The other issue involved the shuttles: the participant guide indicated two spots to pick up the shuttle, but no one seemed to know where that second spot was, and so we all ended up walking the mile and change through quiet neighborhoods to the start line. Not the worst way to warm up, but still.
Once we got to the start area, everything was perfect: the port-a-potties were plentiful and clean, the crowds were electric, there was no confusion, and we started a little bit late but overall not a big deal.
The course itself was unbelievable: as soon as you cross the starting line, you run directly onto a closed-down major highway and through a tunnel, up past the Delaware River, turn back into the tunnel in the other direction, and take off down the highway once more. I've only ever felt energy in a race like that in some of the larger NYRR races I've done - and this was just under 4,000 runners!
I give the race directors major kudos for how well signed and organized the actual race is. Even though there were many people running three distances at relatively the same time - 5K, 10K, and Half with three different courses, no less! - I never once felt confused or crowded.
And the support on the sidelines was unbelievable! I truly felt like I was in a parade, even at the back of the pack. Folks lined the streets in NJ and PA - one guy even had a cooler and was handing out bottled water to us! - and I was so energized by giving high fives to the folks who had brought their dogs and kids and whole families out to cheer us on from their folding chairs. Truly top notch!
The other great part about this race is the scenery. Running over two different bridges over 6 miles was a welcome change from the usual roads or boring boardwalks and sand dunes I usually see on my runs, even though the grating on the bridge that we ran over felt SUPER weird on my feet! I'd heard it from others before but didn't know what to expect - it really is noticeable, but not in a bad way. Just weird. Also: BE CAREFUL if you take pictures on that bridge, because the grates looked just wide enough for an iPhone to slip out of a sweaty runner's hands and fall to its doom in the Delaware. Thank goodness it didn't happen to me, but I can only imagine the horror!
The final stretch of the race was the best part: you run single file through a short tunnel surrounded by cheering folks into the Trenton Thunder stadium, around the outfield, and through the cute to finish at home plate. The feeling is really indescribable. I had chills and had to keep from tearing up the whole time - you get your moment in the spotlight and then get your medal and climb up into the stands for a Finisher's Festival that was not so much a "festival" as it was free Philly soft pretzels and lots of other snacks, which I'll take in a heartbeat!
The only other downside was getting back to the car and leaving. We had to ask around to 3 or 4 race officials to learn that the shuttles back to the parking lots weren't coming for another 90 minutes, so we had to walk back to the lots. But there weren't any folks along the walking route (except for one police officer, thank goodness), so we just had to hope that the folks ahead of us were walking in the right direction. Thankfully they were.
The last issue we ran into was getting OUT of the parking lot and back home - since all the roads were closed in random places (and the parking lot had been blocked off on one end so we thought we were stuck for a few minutes!), we had to wait for someone else to leave and followed them out of the lot, down a few streets that turned out to be blocked so we all had to turn around, and finally out to the highway.
All in all, the lack of signage/volunteers isn't a deal breaker. Even if it's the same situation next year, I know now what to expect and will DEFINITELY be running this race again next year!