By Oren Efrati
Race: New Jersey Marathon
Where: Oceanport, NJ
When: April 29, 2017
I had signed up for the NJ marathon in a burst of enthusiasm right after the New York Marathon. I was not sure what to expect since I had never run a spring marathon. I was loosely following the Hal Higdon 18-week Advanced training plan, but customized it a bit with some longer long runs, and swapping a cross-training for one of the running days.
The day before the race, I convinced my family that the beautiful sunny day was a perfect time to get lunch at a seaside restaurant in Long Branch, NJ, and by-the-way check out the expo and start and finish lines. Glad I did, since it eased my nerves a bit to see what to expect the next day.
The weather gods were smiling on Sunday, as the temperature dropped to what felt like perfect conditions. It started around 59F, and the forecast had the temps dropping during the race, which almost never happens. There was good cloud cover for most of the day, and the feared predicted strong winds never showed up.
Besides weather and training, race day nutrition is key for me. I tried as much as possible to replicate what I did in November, which worked well then. That meant eating a bigger breakfast than I would normally, plus Gatorade and Shot Bloks before the race. During the race, I had 4 gels, 3 salt tablets, and lots of Gatorade and water. The cups that were handed out were small, so I tried to take three at the stops, which were about every two miles.
I arrived at Monmouth Park around 6:15 am (which is actually a horse racetrack) by car. I left most of my things in the car, and then walked a few minutes to get to the bag-check area and corrals. Actually, much easier logistically than most other marathons. I entered the coral around 7:10 am, and found the 3:25 pace group before the horn went off.
The pace group was great, met a bunch of nice folks, each with their story of what brought them to this spot. A woman running her first marathon, who wanted to run under 3:30. Tony was trying to inch closer to his 3:15 BQ time. And Liam (well known from Brooklyn races), who ran Boston 8 times, had a lot of good advice during the race (“At some point in any marathon it becomes the most important one you have ever run.”). I ran a few miles with Claire from PPTC who was racing the half. She and Michael Silver eventually sped past our pace group. There were lots of cheering along the course at various spots, and I enjoyed seeing the various beach towns and boardwalks. Christine was a one-woman PPTC cheer zone at mile 10 and the finish. I was also happy to see Sam and Jennie on the course.
Things were going well until late in the race, where I did not manage to hold on to the pace the whole way. As I was getting into mile 23, the pace group was inching away in the distance. There were a few other casualties from the group and we all ended up separating into our own pace. So going into mile 24 I was pretty much alone with one long straight road to go down. I had brought a small music player in my pocket, and put it on for some extra motivation. It helped to take my mind off the difficult last few miles. So listening to Girl Talk by All Day for the last stretch, and then I saw Christine cheering and the finish line, I was very happy to be done.
Even though I didn’t hit my A goal, I still managed a 2 minute or so PR, and finally got that 2-handle on my marathon time (3:28:59 official).
I drove back with Christine and Puff for the ride back to Brooklyn. I felt New Jersey Marathon was definitely a great marathon and I’d recommend it.