Latest reviews by Matt Callaway

"PR potential but a ton of variables at play"
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Race Management

Living in Atlanta, I look for flat races in cooler temps as a reward for a summer of hills, heat, and humidity. Moved on down to Atlantic City after New Jersey covid-cancelled. This was my first and probably last trip to Atlantic City. Plenty of casinos to stay at, but this seems to be a local (NJ/NY area) race people drive in for.

After reading reviews and talking to others, I decided to fly into Philly Friday and stayed downtown Friday night. Great city. Caught a ride to Atlantic City Saturday and made it to the expo around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. In 2021, the “expo” was just a bib pick up line. A very long bib pick up line. I don’t know why they’d only have 2 people handing out bibs and a few more handing out race shirts, but the wait was 45 minutes and the line was even longer once I got through. They appeared unprepared. Some people got items in their bags such as beach towels…I guess they ran out before I got there because I only had flyers in my bag with my bib and race shirt.

Race morning, there are no corrals. Just a huge mass of people crowding the start. The 3:30, 3:40, 3:45, 3:50, 3:55 pacers could have all reached out and touched each other at the start. There’s no reason to not spread out a little. This was frustrating. Especially after it was advertised that people would be forced to be somewhat socially distanced, and that masks were expected/required. I saw maybe 2 other people out of 2,000 in a mask, and we were all squeezed in like sardines at the start.

Once the running began, things improved considerably. The course is very fair. It it not completely flat, as there are a handful of freeway ups and downs in the first 7-8 miles. Nothing too challenging, but only the final 18 miles are completely flat.

The aid stations were well stocked with water and Gatorade. I carry my own gels but I saw a few tables along the way providing fuel too. The volunteers at the aid stations did a great job as cheering sections as well, because there wasn’t a lot of natural crowd support.

Unfortunately in 2021 the weather didn’t work out for me. It became sneaky warm throughout the morning. Along the final 8 miles, I saw several runners down with EMTs due to heat. But the wind was a deal breaker. It was exhausting virtually the entire way, no matter the direction we ran. It was so bad it literally blew me off the road a few times.

A note on the boardwalk. There is a lot of boardwalk running. It’s unusual if you’re not used to it, and likely takes some mental energy to navigate. Boards are uneven, bouncy, bolts stick up, it’s uneven in places…just another challenge.

The pacer was great. Good experience, great conversation. The 3:40 pace team was relatively large (~25) and stuck together rather well through 18 miles, but that’s when my body failed. I mailed it in the final 8 miles and managed to finish in just under 4 hours. But looking at finish times and race photos, just a few runners in from that 3:40 group met their goal. Most ran 3:50-4:05.

The finish experience was disappointing. Even though I came in under 4 hours, there were no fluids left other than water. Powerade had already run out. I don’t understand how that happens. Thankfully, my hotel room was a few steps away from the finish and I had cold drinks and snacks waiting for me there. The Johnny Rockets milkshake from the boardwalk hit the spot later that afternoon.

Swag: The medal is neat as the lighthouse light flashes via a battery in the back of it. The pullover is ok. It’s not the nicest material and has a weird fit. The large fit me like a large on the body and shoulders, but the long sleeves are close to 3/4 length…oh well!

It was a disappointing result for me, but I do know a number of runners PRd/BQd, and I just had a bad day. I’m disappointed I didn’t get to run the NJM. Also disappointed the NJM folks were nowhere to be seen at this race, as they had said they would be there with swag for us transferred runners.

If you like to gamble, give this race a shot. The Bally’s sportsbook was a fun place to spend Saturday resting before the race and Sunday resting afterward. But the casinos, especially Caesers where I stayed, were kind of sad, kind of old and run down, and full of old people pumping the nickel slots…just not for me.

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