Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Race Recap: 2016 New Jersey Half Marathon

Finish line at the 2016 New Jersey Half Marathon
Runners do actually "run the shore" in this race
Though I didn't participate in this year's New Jersey Half (or full) Marathon, I had a great time attending the event and watching the race.  I've run in both the half and full marathons in the past, and I do think that this race is rapidly becoming one of my favorite spring running events.  The field is not too large--but yet remains serious and competitive--so the registration process is very low stress. The organizers also allow for event changes and registration deferrals, both of which are helpful when unexpected injuries--are there any other kind of injuries?--arise.  Finally, the support along the course is seamless and professional, making it an experience that is on par with the race's more famous Northeast siblings in New York and Boston.

The respective courses, in their own ways, offer runners exactly the kind of running routes that they need to perform well.  The half marathon course, which roughly follows the first 11 miles of the full marathon course, snakes back and forth through  Oceanport, Monmouth Beach, and Long Branch, offering participants a good amount of shielding from any aggressive winds coming off of the ocean. This portion of the course offers the race's only significant hills, and those hills only climb a few modest feet in elevation.  Beyond that, the course is flat, and after the first 8 miles, it starts to stretch out, giving everyone an opportunity to work the last 5K without the interference of sharp turns.

The full marathon course hooks south on Ocean Avenue at roughly mile 11.5, at which point the course turns into an elongated straightaway through Deal and out to Asbury Park and Ocean Grove. This stretch is helpful for marathoners as they are settling into a cruise pace on the way out and are, we hope, hanging onto a more aggressive pace on the way back.  The only tricky factor here can be the elements.  If it's hot, runners are really exposed on this stretch for most of the second half of the race.  The same applies in windy conditions and, as was the case this past Sunday, rainy weather as well.  Still, this section of the course affords runners an excellent opportunity to establish solid consistent pacing on the back end of the race.

In addition, the spectating experience is equally excellent.  Since the race begins in one of the large parking lots at Monmouth Park racetrack, runners and spectators alike have plenty of room to get to the start and to get the kind of positioning that they want.

Photo of the bugler at the start of the 2016 New Jersey Half Marathon
Even if you are fast, you are not horse racing fast, but you feel that way when a bugler calls you to post
It's also worth nothing that this race is one of the few where the start line experience is similarly exciting for both runners and spectators.  Each of the event's waves are called to post by Monmouth Park's bugler, which is both adorable and energizing, even if you are only boarding a spectator bus to take you to mile 10, which is what I did.

Speaking of mile 10, excellent coffee for the spectators:

Exterior photo of a now-closed cafe in Long Branch New Jersey
Their pastries are really good, too
Coach Kiprunning did have one runner compete in this past Sunday's event--my brother Kevin, actually--and he set a PR by about eleven minutes, so that was really, really great.  Last Sunday's conditions were not ideal--it started to rain with conviction about an hour after the race began--so to have anyone set a PR on that day (I'm sure many people did) was definitely a great accomplishment. Chronotrack lists the results for both races, so give them a look.  It was a good, if wet, day out there. Congratulations to all of you.

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