My 26.2 Mile Races:
New Jersey Marathon finisher cap & shirt
2008 New Jersey Marathon
Born to run a PR!
On the same day that many of my Rebel Runner buddies were running the popular Broad Street Run (10 mi.),
I ran 26.2 in Long Branch, NJ in a personal record time of 3:13:12.
The previous day was cold and blustery, with
occasional showers, but conditions were good on race day.
NJM has a field of 2,400 runners and is run on a loop course. 5,000 half-marathoners race together with us, stopping after
one loop while we (along with marathon relay runners) complete a second lap.
Marathon Expo, Motel, Church, Dinner
New Jersey Marathon tech shirt
After a tough Marine Corps Marathon where I bonked before mile 20, I was happy with the
training I had put in for the May 4 race on the north Jersey Shore. Caesar Rodney half had been a good run in
challenging conditions, and my three 20-mile training runs all went well. But as is always the case when chasing
a particular goal time, weather would be a huge factor in achieving my goal of a PR and reaching my more difficult goal
of a sub-3:10 marathon.
Saturday was dark and dreary, with a cold wind that would not be fun to run against. After checking in at my motel in
Eatontown, I drove the 6 miles to Long Branch to grab my race packet. What a congested area, with streets twisting and
turning! Already under a time restriction to try to pick up my bib and head back to Eatontown for a 5pm Mass, I was
unhappy with the crowded tent and long line to confirm race chip functionality. Of course, I was wearing a red
Boston Marathon shirt to pump myself up. Barely time to buy one more PowerGel
for the next day and I jogged back through the fog to my car.
Made it to church on time, and seeking any additional inspiration I could get, I appreciated the huge beautiful stone
backdrop to the altar area, flooded with decorative lighting. As the priest made some opening remarks, he reminded
everyone to wear red the following week for Pentecost. Then he points directly at me and says "like that man is
wearing now" and I my initial reflex was to raise my arm as if to say "yeah, I fouled him" but then I remembered that
this wasn't a basketball game and that I really didn't want to bring additional attention on myself.
After Mass, I stopped at the Cobblestone Diner for my pre-race dinner, which worked out nicely. Not crowded, and
the Kentucky Derby started on a large screen TV just moments after I was seated. Got to see the thrill of victory
for "Big Brown" and agony of defeat at the same time as "Eight Belles" had to be euthanized just after finishing.
That was pretty ominous and certainly not something you want to see the day before a race.
Final boost of adrenelin for the day was watching the Flyers beat the Canadians to move on in the playoffs.
Mother Nature was kind and conditions were good for race day. I departed the Crystal Inn at 5:30am to head to the
beach. [That sounds weird.] Good leg-stretching walk to the Porta-Potties near the start area on the boardwalk.
I downed my "5-Hour Energy" shot and started getting excited.
Good job on the National Anthem by the same runner who's done it for the past several years and race started nearly
on time. Cool 50 degrees, but no sun, no rain, and especially no wind!! I kept close to the official 3:10 pace runner
right from the start. He was wearing an orange shirt and hat and carried an little orange flag with that special number
on it. We were the first pace group of the 8 or so overall for the combined (full + half) 8,500 runners. Starting up
near the front, there were no congestion problems, other than many sharp corners to navigate.
I tucked myself in to our group of around 25 who all wanted to stay as tight as possible to our pacer Matt. It helped that
he was tall. I had taken off my throwaway shirt before the gun went off, but only tossed it after a couple miles.
My short sleeve Boston tech shirt was a good choice for the conditions. I later tossed my [Matlack] hat at mile 7 and
my magic gloves [from very first marathon] at mile 14. Ran out of things to toss ;-(
I kind of felt like hot stuff staying with the 3:10 people and was happy we stuck together so well. The funny thing is
that for a small marathon, I was with this pack for miles and miles, and had to be very careful not to bump others at all
of the turns and even looking for ruts in the road. Combination of neighborhood streets with main streets through towns such
as Broadway and Ocean Avenue. Decent spectators. Not much music. Little chatter in our group.
One piece of early excitement is when one of the big guys took a tumble. He got up so quickly that it was almost a half
mile later that blood started dripping from his shoulder and elbows. Of course he said he was fine, and he eventually
dropped our group in favor of more wide-open space.
Official MarathonFoto.com race start photo
The start photo is from a previous year.
It was too foggy to see the nearby hotel in 2008!
Ray's official personalized bib.
NJM Finish Line
The 2 loop course made the halfway point much more fun, with crowds of spectators cheering on the half-marathoners as
they finished up on the boardwalk. I had thought that suddenly losing 2/3 of the runners would be a strange experience,
but since I was still tucked in with the group, there was barely any difference. Even water stops remained a challenge
since we were so tightly packed. The only sense that we were more "alone" was observing the many throwaway shirts that
lined both sides of the road in what had been miles 1-3.
Things were going well and Matt was doing a fine job of maintaining even pace, sometimes slowing after milemarkers to
keep us from putting too much in the bank. But suddenly, just after mile 16, tragedy struck. Matt bailed out, saying
he had a problem and was sorry. Since he pulled up "lame", we quickly and mercifully euthanized him and continued on
our way. But of course, the same two words were racing through each of our 20 or so minds, "Oh S***!". This is not
something you plan for during 3 months of training. We were filled with panic and nominated a guy in an orange shirt
to "be our leader". He immediately replied that it was just coincidence that he was wearing the same shade of orange
as Matt (who we never did hear from again). That didn't make us happy, so we then turned to a purple-wearing TNT runner
who had been with us since the beginning and seemed to have many supporters along the route. He wasn't enthusiastic
about taking over. Our elder member (wearing a 50-stater shirt, of course) stated that this was the best maintained
pack that he'd ever been part of...
That remark turned out to be the kiss of death. After a mile of staying together (and predictably picking up the pace
in our panic) we started to disintegrate. I started dropping back, thinking they were moving too fast. Between miles
17 and 18 we got strung out and our proud pack ceased to exist. At mile 20, I believed I had a shot at 3:10, but I
was also starting to lose my stride. Pretty soon I was alone. Luckily, we were now passing walking participants and
there were also a few places where runners were coming down the street in the opposite direction. By mile 24, I realized
that not only was 3:10 now out of the question, but it would take a serious effort to break my 3:14:02 PR.
A final stretch of boardwalk (mostly concrete) begins around mile 25 and I knew that my legs would be OK as long as
I remained positive. Between the cheering crowd and snaking my way past more of the walkers, I found a decent kick
at the end and heard my name announced as I crossed under the finish banner with 3:13:15 on my watch.
The sun was starting to come out and I was smiling.
It was only the following day after results were finally posted online that I was shocked to learn that I had won an
award for placing 2nd in my age group (M45-49) out of 138. The race staff graciously offered to mail the award and
included a response to my inquiry about our ill-fated pacer:
As for the pacer, I spoke to a friend of his, seems he felt very ill
and his heart started racing, something that never had happened to
him before. He is fine now but is going to get things checked out.
I know he has one iron man under his belt so hopefully his good
physical condition will work in his favor.
The Lord is kind and merciful. Slow to anger and great in compassion.
Ray's New Jersey Marathon Statistics
Chip time: 3:13:12 Pace: 7:23/mile
Age Group Place: 2 of 138 (M45-49)
Overall Place: 68 of 1,700 (top 4%)
PR shoes: Mizuno Wave Inspire 3
Official New Jersey Marathon website
Ray's full and half marathon medals
Ray's age group award
"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters.
If you want to experience something, run a marathon."