- 3 miles/5K
- Road Race
I've done this race for two years now, and it's definitely on my list every year going forward. This 5K/1 Mile Fun Run benefits the MARSOC Foundation (Marine Corps support) and it's packed with tons of patriotic, inspiring people of all ages and abilities. Plus, it's directly next to and ON the boardwalk the entire time, which makes it a super easy, fast, flat race that I look forward to trying to PR at every year.
The sign up is super easy (all online) and they offer day-of packet pickup which is always a plus. I've seen that done horribly bad in other races, with long lines and disorganized chaos on the morning of a race, but these folks are pros.
One downside is the parking situation - as the race takes place at the tail end of beach season at the Jersey shore, depending on the weather you may run into issues finding parking. So far we haven't experienced anything; there's plenty of paid parking available since I'm paranoid and always arrive super early to every race, but even paying $8+ to park for a 2 hour race/event isn't the most enticing thing. I overheard some runners talking about using the race guide as a free parking pass, but there's nothing about that in the pre-race literature or on their site or sign-up page, so I'm not sure how true it is.
Once I got my bib there was the usual national anthem, a one-mile fun run, and shortly after that we all were ushered to the street for the start. It's a relatively small race, but gaining in popularity - another downside is the fact that no one really knows what's going on or where, as there's no bullhorn loud enough for organizers to reach the whole crowd.
But just like it always does, things worked out and the gun sounded and we were off, a little after the scheduled start time of 9:30AM. The first 1.5 miles of the course are on the road, and the crowd is nice and spread out. Because there are so many people of different ages and abilities, my usual spot at the middle/back of the pack wasn't as lonely as it can be in other races - in fact, I was able to pass quite a few folks, which is a great ego boost!
It was foggy at the beginning of the race, and the humidity started to weigh pretty heavily on me as well - that's what you get running a race in September in NJ, it's always dicey weather-wise! But thankfully the aid table at mile 1.5 right before the turn back onto the boardwalk was staffed with smart kids: instead of using the bottles of water they had been provided with to fill little cups, they simply handed the whole bottles out! I'm sure they were told to use the cups because one or two people were trying desperately to open bottles, pour, and hand them out quick enough, but with a quickly growing crowd of hot, flustered runners gunning for PR's waiting for water, they made the right decision and just handed out bottles, no questions asked.
I gratefully took my bottle and headed back onto the boardwalk for the second half of the race. This is where it's all worth it: you spend a mile and a half on the boardwalk, the roaring ocean on your right and the rest of the runners and Marine Corps groups marching at the end of the race, chanting and moving in unison. It gives me chills every time I see it, and I always make sure to run without headphones for the second half to get the full effect.
I finished this time around with a much better time than last year, although my watch time was way off from the clock time. The finish area was kind of hectic, as lots of people had parked in the lot where the staging area technically was. This was especially bad as I needed to sit down immediately after I finished due to my final push effort and the heat being pretty overwhelming, but because there were cars everywhere (some were even driving through the crowd of finishers!), I couldn't.
While the race experience itself is really great, the one disappointing thing I've seen two years in a row now is the lack of the "awesome finishers party and free brunch" they claim to have after the race.
After sitting in the restaurant on the boardwalk that served as race headquarters for close to a half hour after I finished, my stomach started growling, and there was no sight of food at all.
We walked around the restaurant to make sure we didn't miss anything, but everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing - some folks were even ordering from the menu and just buying full meals. I can understand if that's what was meant by "brunch" in the pre-race materials, but again, this wasn't explicitly stated, and instead of hanging around even longer, we decided to walk down the boardwalk and get some good old Jersey shore pizza instead.
Overall I wouldn't let the parking and post-race lack of *anything* stop me from running this race again next year - while it'd be nice to have a party like they claim, it's kind of become tradition to cool down with a nice long walk on the boardwalk after we finish and celebrate with some seaside deliciousness.
This is a great race with beautiful views for an awesome cause that I'd definitely recommend to others!