This past weekend I ran my second half marathon of 2016 in Asbury Park, NJ. Asbury Park has really done a lot to clean up the town and it has become one of our favorite places to visit that is close to home. The boardwalk has a great vibe with a cool historic feel, and the main street has great restaurants and shops. It’s always a great spot for a run, so I was excited to run a half there.
The run made bib pickup really easy with 3 different options in 3 different towns the week before the race. We were able to pick up our bibs at a nearby Sports Authority, and they gave us a participant coupon to use in the store…so we each bought a new top to complete our race day outfits.
Beth and I headed up to the race which was about a half hour drive from home. Parking was really easy, and the town had waived parking fees until later that afternoon which I thought was great. We parked in a lot and walked down to the convention center where the race would start. It was her first race so I wanted to make sure she knew exactly where the start was and when she should start her watch as she crossed the line.
Before we knew it, the national anthem was playing. I gave her a big hug and we split up based on pace groups. Then we were off. As soon as I started I didn’t feel right. I convinced myself that I would just run to finish and kept a steady pace, working hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the start while everyone raced by me. I really felt as though I was holding back, but as I passed the first mile marker I was surprised to see my first split was under 7:30.
I had a lot of concerns about this race based on my running style and preferences in races. I am always really nervous when a course is described as “flat and fast”. I’m more of a hilly, turn lots of corners girl, which was how the course at my previous half was. I am not a “racer” and really like to do the races for the experience and challenge but can still get competitive! After the first mile I decided to just try and keep that pace or a little slower and see what happened.
The course itself was beautiful. The sun was shining, and the temperature was pretty much perfect. There was definitely some wind, but I always expect that when running on the coast. We ran both on the boardwalk and through neighborhoods in Interlaken, Allenhurst, Deal, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach and Avon by the Sea, which are all very pretty beach towns so there was plenty to see. There was a long stretch where we ran south and with the wind. I tried really hard to be smart during this part knowing that once we turned to head back to the finish we would be running directly into the wind.
As we looped back around to where the start was around mile 8, I saw my mom, sister, kids and my niece. There are a lot of times I don’t get to see them until the finish since they time out getting to the races based on when I will be done, so I was excited and it gave me a little boost to keep going. The last three miles were tough. The worst part was, I knew I was on pace to PR but my splits were increasing with the wind. There was a point in the race where I thought I would be able to get a sub-140 but I was starting to realize it was not going to be the day for that. But I kept my heart set on a best time either way.
I crossed the line in 140.58, which was almost a full minute faster that DC the month before. Considering how I felt during the race combined with the wind I was really happy with that. As always, the big hugs from Ava and Nolan were my favorite part. As I was holding Nolan and he was still cheering for me, “go mommy, go mommy”. So sweet.
We headed into the expo which was at the convention center and I got my race shirt which I really liked. We walked around a little, and then headed back to the finish to watch Beth finish her first half marathon. When we saw her coming I was so excited for her. I could see how happy and proud she was to get to that point. As I said before, the experiences and challenges are why I run. The best times, medals, and all of that are great, and a welcome reward for all of the hard work, but I really am someone who enjoys the training more than the race. And having been on this journey with her from the beginning it was beyond cool.
We headed back in to get Beth’s shirt, and the results were posted. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had placed second in my age division, which never happens. So we hung around for the awards.
Since we love the area so much, we had planned on making a day out of it. The weather was beautiful and after a long week of not so nice days, being outside felt amazing. We headed to one of my favorite Asbury spots, Porta and sat outside for lunch, and it was a perfect end to a great day.
Overall, I thought the race was great. You can’t beat the location and they raised a lot of money for the Special Olympics of NJ. There were 3 other races going on simultaneously with the half marathon: a 5K which started on the boardwalk (parallel to the half start) and then both a full marathon and marathon relay that started in Seaside Heights. All races finished across the same line, and there were about 4000 runners total who participated. Prior to the race, there were free training plans offered to the participants who were new to races or certain distances which were great too. They even offered certain dates for training runs for the runners.
There are a lot of times when friends reach out to me and ask if I would recommend races that they are thinking about running. If I was asked about my experience at this race, I would have to say that the things I found disappointing were the lack of bathrooms and small water stops. It seemed as though they did not have enough volunteers for the size of the race. I always seemed to be in a spot where I was almost running alone so I did not have any issues getting water or gatorade but thought that some of the bigger packs of runners I saw as we crossed paths may have. There was one water station that was between the course where we crossed, and they were only able to give water to those running south and I could have used some heading north, around mile 11. The volunteers that were on the course however were great and really encouraging! I think considering there were not any port-a-potties on the course there should have been more available before the start. But overall, I would most likely run this race again, just prepare for my personal spectators to have water for me like I saw a few runners had done.
Next half is May 15!