A blog by runners. For runners.

Race Review: Long Branch Half Marathon/New Jersey Marathon

race-review-nj-marathon-half

The basics:

  • Events: NJ marathon, Long Branch half marathon, half marathon relay
  • Location: Start in Oceanport, N.J. and finish in Long Branch, N.J.
  • When: Sunday, May 5, 2013. Next year’s event will be held on Sunday, April 27, 2014. The half marathon starts at 6:45 a.m., and full begins at 8 a.m.
  • How to register: Here or check out the event’s official website
  • Map the race: Check out the marathon route here.

The pros: If you want to run a flat, fast, scenic spring half or full marathon, the NJ Marathon or Long Branch half is the ideal race. This year’s event attracted about 11,000 runners. The race is a point-to-point course. It starts at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, N.J. From there, runners go through quaint neighborhoods and over waterways along the Jersey Shore. The last mile and a half of both races are run parallel to the beach, offering the most beautiful views of the ocean. The race finishes at Long Branch Ocean Promenade just north of Pier Village.

The temperatures average between 38 and 60 degrees at the start. This year was no exception; temps were in the 40s with a moderate breeze.

This in an excellent PR race not only because of the flat course and weather, but because the race offers pacing teams. This year there were pacers for all the 5 minute intervals between 1:30- 2:00 hours for the half and between 3:05- 4:00 hours for the full. There were also plenty over 2:00 hours and over 4:00 hours pacers for each race.

As far as organization goes, the NJ marathon cannot be beat. There are frequent email and Facebook communications leading up to the race, a large expo open for two days before the event, and plenty of people directing you where to go on race day. On the course, there are enough fluid stations, portable toilets, and medical support. There was also a noticeable increased security presence this year because of the recent events in Boston. There were officers at the start, along the course, and at the finish.

This race is also very spectator-friendly. It’s easy for spectators to get to, and there were plenty of spectators – and volunteers – offering their support and cheers throughout the course. The race also offers free runner tracking so spectators know when to expect their runner. Complete with a finish line celebration and family reunion area, the races makes it easy for runners to reunite with their support crew.

The cons: Due to the tragedy in Boston, the race directors made some security changes in the weeks leading up to the race. No bags were allowed in the start or finish area (except for race issued clear bags) and spectators were not permitted in certain areas.

Since it’s not a loop course, the race encourages you to park at the start and take their shuttle bus back to the finish. However, runners were originally told the shuttle bus service wouldn’t start until 10:15 a.m. The half started at 6:45 a.m. so this meant runners may have been waiting a while to get back to their cars.

Getting to the event’s start can also be tricky on race morning. The race directors encouraged everyone to come very early because the race is known for bad traffic. If you arrive early or take back roads, traffic will not be a problem.

Overall thoughts: I’ve run the Long Branch half marathon in 2006, 2009, and this year. It continues to be one of my favorite races because of the top notch organization and the flat, beautiful course. I didn’t run my fastest this year, but it’s hard to be disappointed in a race when you’re running alongside the ocean.

This year’s events were also extra meaningful. The race course had to be altered due to destruction from Hurricane Sandy six months earlier. Some of the damage was visible – and hard to look at – but there was a sense of camaraderie and hope during this race. So many runners and spectators were wearing shirts to support the Shore or Boston. Instead of being sad about these events, there was a general feeling of healing and recovery. Like our finisher medals say “run, restore, rebuild”.

I’ll definitely be running NJ again next year – I hope to see you there! Did anyone else run NJ last weekend?

Written by Jen Matz.