It was the best of times. Here’s me (in the white shirt) just before the finish line in about 4:02…
It was the worst of times. Here’s me lying on a stretcher with hypothermia and dehydration about 10 minutes after the race…
So it wasn’t the ideal ending, but was a good experience nevertheless. I ran the New Jersey Marathon in memory of my mom, who (you might remember) died in New Jersey 50 years ago this year (1959). I was happy to have run the race, and even happier not to have joined her with my ultimate demise.
This year’s New Jersey Marathon was cold and rainy. It might have stopped raining a few times during the race. I’m not sure because after a while I was oblivious to the rain and was just kind of on autopilot. I know that a lot of people run a marathon and when they finish they swear they’ll never run another one, but a couple weeks later they’re looking for a new one to run. That won’t be the case with me. One is enough. Although I love to run, too much of a good thing is not always a good thing, so it was my first and last marathon, and that’s a promise.
Aside from the miserable weather and my near death experience at the end, the race itself was really nice. The people in charge of the NJ Marathon really go all out to provide a top notch marathon for participants, and it seems like the whole city of Long Branch is behind it as well. The crowd support even in the rain was amazing. There were several sections along the route where people lined the streets about a half-dozen deep, shouting encouragement as the runners came by. The hundreds of volunteers were great as well.
The expo was in a large tent (not quite large enough) in Pier Village, a beautiful place on the beach filled with shops and restaurants. When we first arrived there about noon on Saturday it was raining so it was hard to appreciate everything in the area, but things cleared up later on Saturday afternoon and the rest of the day was nice. The expo was good but really needed to be in a larger venue such as the large hotel next door or at least in a larger tent. The hundreds of people in the tent were completely crammed in so it was hard to move around.
One thing about the races in general that I like most is the interesting people I meet along the way. In this race somewhere about mile 20 I met up with Lawrence Diggs, a 68-year-old from New Jersey who began running at the age of 49 and was running in his 64th marathon. He explained to me that he got started too quickly today because he was the guy who sang “God Bless America” just before the race and he wasn’t able to get farther back in the pack so he started up front and got pulled along at a fast pace, leaving him out of gas just like me at about the halfway point. He was a real inspiration and encouraged me to keep going during those last few miles of the race, and his stories made the time pass by a lot faster. Somewhere in the 25th mile we got separated and I didn’t see him again.
A major problem for this race is the parking situation. There are just not enough parking spaces anywhere nearby to accommodate 10,000 runners and the people coming to watch them run so the main parking area is at the Monmouth Park race track, which is about 5 miles away. When I arrived at about 5:30 a.m. at the parking area there were about 10 school buses loading up. They filled up quickly and along came more buses, but there were thousands of people and no real lines or organization for getting on the buses so you kind of just had to nudge and bully your way in if you wanted to get on a bus.
The good far outweighed the bad though. The T-shirts for this race are the very best I’ve ever seen for any race: long-sleeved blue tech shirts that are beautifully designed on the front AND back with no advertising at all on the back. The finishers medals were great as well and you also got a really nice finishers hat. I lost mine in the shuffle as the medics were giving me oxygen but that’s understandable. I should mention that all of the medical people involved were amazing. They had their hands full with people like me but made sure every person with a medical problem was taken care of. Some of my vital signs were a little iffy such as a heart rate in the low 50s and they wanted to take me to the hospital but I was feeling a lot better after 15 or 20 minutes and had a plane to catch so I declined the offer, but they still made sure and found me some dry clothes (which we hadn’t even thought of bringing) and had one of the volunteers personally drive us back to our car at the race track.