Since I’m used to running Disney races where my alarm is set for 2:45 am, the 4:30 am wake up call was a nice change. I never sleep well before races so once the alarm went off I was wide awake. We were staying at my Dad’s house that night and the queen sized bed is always a little tight for B and I as well. Once you get used to a king, everything else feels cramped 😉
I got up and did my usual pre-race routine: brush teeth, wash face, KT Tape, Body Glide, get dressed, Blister Block, put shoes on, good to go. I headed downstairs to make my pre-race meal of a whole wheat bagel thin with almond butter & banana and a cup of green tea. My Dad was nice enough to get up early to drop me off for the race. We chatted a bit while I ate and headed out the door just after 5:30 am.
The starting line was at Monmouth Park, which is where the Expo was held the day before. It’s only about 15 minutes from my Dad’s house, but we expected there to be traffic getting there and we were right. There were funneling all of the cars into the parking lot across from the track, but we kept going and my Dad dropped me off at the end of the road leading in. I walked from there and was surprised by how cold and windy is was. 50 degrees is perfect for racing, but that wind was tough.
Thankfully the grandstand was open, so I headed straight in there to keep warm. Seemed like many of the other runners had the same idea.
I stretched for a bit to warm up my legs and then decided to use a real bathroom before heading outside to the corrals. The line for the women’s room was very long, but rumors were stirring that there were other less crowded bathrooms upstairs. Well there was a line there, but then there were more rumors about another bathroom further down with no line. So a few of us headed around the corner and then down an escalator to find a bathroom that alas had no line! The whole area was deserted with only the remnants for the Kentucky Derby the night before.
It was about 6:30 am, so I decided to head outside to get in my corral. The race was starting in about 15 minutes and I couldn’t believe how many people were still hanging around inside or on a very long line for the bathroom. The port-a-john lines were even worse outside!
Volunteers were yelling at everyone who had a clear bag to check that the trucks were just about to leave for the finish line area and that they had to rush! It was a bit chaotic. I’m surprised there weren’t any announcements inside letting people know what time it was and that they had to get a move on to check their bags.
I was in Corral E, the last corral, so I started heading toward the back. Volunteers were checking bib numbers at the entrance to C, but when I got to D no one was there and people were just filing in. I know it’s not right to do that, but I REALLY was nervous about starting in the last corral so I took the advantage when I saw it. But I wasn’t the only one who had that idea, people were even hopping over the barricades!
Once I was in the corral, the start was only about 5 minutes away. Things seemed to be moving very quickly! I guess I’m just used to Disney races with everything very far apart and having to stand around a lot, but I actually really enjoyed having everything close by! Before I knew it, the announcer was counting down the wheelchair competitors and then the elite runners in A. Since we were at a racetrack, it was only fitting that each corral was sent off by the opening bugle horn for horse races…pretty cool. And then what else would be playing for a race on the Jersey Shore, but “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen…so perfect!
The first few miles were tough as they usually are for me. My legs aren’t warmed up and every stride feels strained, but just after mile 2 I got into the groove. My goal for the day was to finish in 2:45 and when I started, I was positioned perfectly between the 2:30 and 2:45 pacers. My average pace was 12:20 and I was keeping a 2/1 run walk ratio….right on track to finish in 2:45. But surprise surprise…my GI system had other plans. A pit stop was in my immediate future.
The lines for the port-a-john’s were long and I was so concerned about time that I just kept pushing through hoping that the next group had a shorter line. No luck. That was until I saw a few women standing off to the side of the road…in someone’s driveway. The house was having construction done and there was a port-a-john there…probably for the workers. Genius! So I hopped on line. I feel kind of bad for the owners of the house and the construction company, but this was getting to be an emergency so I had to do it. However I did see the 2:45 pacer pass by while I was waiting…boooo.
This pit stop was just before mile 4, so I figured I had plenty of time to make up some ground. But that 5 minutes is hard to make up! I think this part of the course was my favorite. It was through the town of Oceanport, which has some seriously cute houses and tree lined streets. This was the first area where we encounterd spectators out on the course…it was so cool how people were just sitting in their driveways cheering us on. I’m always so humbled by that.
We crossed our first bridge in around mile 5.5 and headed into Long Branch. The skies were starting to clear and it was turning into a beautiful day.
Here is where we encountered some of the homes that were very badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It’s still so incredibly sad to see the devastation that was caused even more than 6 months after the storm.
But in true Jersey fashion, the storm didn’t damage spirits and even more spectators were out. Many were even having full on parties outside their house, complete with music and Bloody Mary’s!
The NJ Marathon began at 8:00 am and ran the same course as we did until the split at 11.5 miles. When I came up on mile 8, the announcements began that the leader would be approaching soon and we should stay to our right. I also noticed the mile marker signs and the time clocks had been changed to reflect the marathon runners. I can’t event imagine in my wildest dreams running that fast!
At 8.5, I heard a car behind me and someone yelling on a bullhorn to move to the right. This was the first time I had run in conjunction with a full marathon, so I was excited to see the elite runners pass by. Man were they moving!
These runners were passing by at twice my pace having full conversations. Mind boggling to a slow runner like me, but very cool to see!
I knew we were getting close to the split and to the final 1.5 miles along the ocean that I was looking forward to. I was actually feeling really good and trying to make up some of the time that I lost from the pit stop. The marathoners took off to the right down Ocean Avenue for the loooooong stretch to Asbury Park and back and I was so thankful I wasn’t going that way!
Yes, running along the water is gorgeous to look at, but when there is an insane wind coming off the water, it makes it VERY difficult to keep up your pace. I always say it reminds me of being in one of those endless pools where the water just keeps rushing at you while you swim, but you aren’t actually moving. I knew at this point there was no way I was going to make my 2:45 goal so I just settled in and did the best I could. But I did have my best marathon time EVER! 😉
As we came upon Pier Village in Long Branch, there were a ton of spectators out along with bands and other entertainment. A great way to stay occupied for that last mile. I could see the Ocean Place Resort (where B & I got married) in the distance and knew the finish line was close. So I took off to finish strong…it felt great!!
Sadly my family got stuck in traffic and weren’t able to be there when I finished 🙁 But I did finish incredibly strong and love that final stretch. All of the memories of my wedding day came flooding back and I couldn’t help but smile 🙂 I crossed the finish line with a PR and my hand over my heart to honor the Boston Marathon runners and spectators.
I may not have met my goal of finishing in 2:45, but I did cut 8 minutes off my last PR at the Virginia Wine Country Half, so I’ll take it!
Since the wind was so strong, it was a little chilly after the race and I was sad to see that they didn’t have any mylar blankets available. So I headed to the food tent to keep warm until my family arrived with my clothes. Not only did we get bananas and water, but there were soft pretzels as far as the eye could see!
Honestly, they weren’t very good but I was so hungry I ate that whole thing. B and my Dad arrived with flip-flops and a sweatshirt not too long after I finished, which was very much needed. To my surprise, B was carrying all of my clothes instead of the backpack I had packed him and my stepmom wasn’t there. Apparently, they weren’t letting bags of any kind (even purses!) anywhere near the finish line area. This is understandable after the Boston tragedy but I wish the area was communicated better before the race. There were MANY people complaining about how the police and security were treating the spectators and it was sadly another hindrance for people not getting to watch the finish.
We headed back to the car so I could properly change and then headed back to Pier Village to watch the marathoners come in and grab a bite to eat. I chose tacos…big surprise there!
I was also able to meet up with my best friend from high school who came down to cheer me on. She too got stuck at a security check point with her purse so we had to stand around outside the restricted area. We chatted for about 45 minutes and it was like no time had past. What a great end to my hometown race!
Overall, I loved this race. The course was great and it was all run so smoothly. I think I will definitely be back next year…who’s with me??