RunAPalooza Asbury Park Half Marathon: So New Jersey
Running a half marathon in Asbury Park is iconic as a runner could imagine. Starting at the Convention Hall, runners head out past Wonder Bar and beyond, passing the Stone Pony, the home of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, and the iconic wall of murals with vibrant colors are tattooed onto the brick wall. The course is flat and fast, perfect for a PR while ending on the boardwalk for a strong and scenic finish. It is so New Jersey and it is so one of the best half marathons in the state.
Held on Saturday, April 6 more than 1600 runners participated in the 10th annual Asbury Park Half Marathon. Organized by the Jersey Shore Running Club as a fundraiser for the Special Olympics, this popular race is commonly called RunAPalooza (after also adding a 5k and the marathon relay), a name that perfectly captures its fun and lighthearted feel.
But make no mistake, runners show up to kick some asphalt. 30-year-old Russian Kramariul from Ukraine was the first place winner, with a time of 1:11:16.5 this year. That is an impressive 5:26 pace. Joseph Amoresano from Hoboken, NJ took home second place with 1:14:30.0, followed by Sunny Seth from New Providence, NJ with 1:17:19.
Ashley Higginson from Mednham, NJ was the fourth finisher and top female with 1:19:33.1. Second place female went to Brooklyn, NY resident Julia Begin with 1:26:34.8, and Liza Bruns of Metuchen, NJ came in at third overall female with 1:27:52.4.
One of the reasons why this one of the best races in New Jersey is because of its course. It is flat, making smooth sailing for runners looking to complete their first half marathon or set their personal best for this distance. The course itself can be best described as being as close to an out and back as it could be. The starting line was just steps away from Convention Hall, which is a great place to keep warm in the early spring morning, use the bathroom, get some water and pose for pictures.
Runners then lined up by Bond St., heading north at 8:30 a.m. A few blocks past 7th Ave runners made a turn and headed around and then up Ocean Ave. After turning around at Jerome Ave, they headed south along Ocean Ave until reaching the boardwalk where they continued on the sidewalk to the right. This is probably the best park, as runners ran past Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, and Avon, turning around to take the boardwalk to the finish.
The only almost boring stretch was from mile six on after making that turnaround and just running along the street with just houses to look at. Even still, these miles go by fast for the most part and the race is halfway over and the excitement fills the air the closer to the boardwalk runners get.
Besides being a great course because of the lack of hills, it just is a great place to run.
Asbury Park has really put itself on the map as of late. It is now a popular hangout spot, a trendy area filled with delicious restaurants like Porta and Toast, and more upscale places like Pascal & Sabine, Time McLoone’s Moonstruck. Not the mention bars like Waterpark, with its rooftop views of the ocean and the dog-friendly patio at the quirky Wonder Bar.
Then there is the boardwalk, beach, architecture, and art that makes Asbury Park so unique.
Runners often run on the boardwalk spanning from Asbury Park to Avon (and even down to Belmar)—especially when looking to get in some mileage. So it just has the makings of a great course location, and a place runners often check out when not racing and looking to go for a run or when looking to have fun.
Another of the top reasons why the Asbury Park Half Marathon is one of the best in New Jersey is because of the race atmosphere. Along with having that “it’s so Jersey Shore” vibe (in the iconic way, not the reality TV way), it also has amazing crowd support.
There are so many places along the way where spectators can cheer on runners. This is especially the case for the boardwalk. Groups of family and friends gather together ringing cowbells and proudly holding their signs. There was more than one occasion where this runner smiled and straight up chuckled reading these.
It just has an upbeat, positive and fun vibe about the race. It is easy to just relax and enjoy the run and not be so uptight about nailing down that pace and getting that PR. And interesting enough, even with this mentality the runner probably will still PR. It really is a win, win race.
Tips And What To Expect: Everything You Need To Know About RunAPalozza
There are so many pros about this race that it is hard to think of even a single con. The Jersey Shore Running Club does a phenomenal job organizing the event from race bibs to race day info to on course aid.
Bibs are mailed to runners (if they register in advance), which is so convenient. No longer do runners have to get over to pick it up the night before, so more time for resting and preparing for the big morning.
There is plenty of free parking on the morning of the race both on the street and in the lots. There is no need to worry about getting a spot or getting there super early to do so. With that said, there are lots of runners and spectators at RunAPalozza so plan accordingly for traffic, road closures and getting that idea parking spot.
There are plenty of bathrooms near the starting line, both port-a-potties and the restrooms inside the Convention Hall. Expect there to be a little bit of a wait in line inside, but nothing too long to not wait for.
Weather in New Jersey in April is hit or miss. It could be cold or it could be a nice warm spring day. This year it was chilly pre-race, many gathering inside the Convention Hall to keep warm before the race. There were runners wearing gloves and layers. There were also runners in shorts. That’s because the weather was expected to be mild in the 60s in the afternoon.
The weather ended up being perfect for running. Not too hot during the majority of the race. By those end miles, the sun was out and shining and it really warmed up. Runners couldn’t ask for a better day.
Word of advice is to wear layers, with the thought that the top layer might be thrown away.
COURSE DIRECTIONS AND WATER STOPS
The organizers made sure that runners know the course directions. This was available online via the race’s website. It was also displayed in the Convention Hall where all could see. It was impossible to get lost, with plenty of race volunteers directing when there were turns. Police patrolled the roads that were closed so runners felt safe and didn’t have to worry about dodging cars.
There were water stops along the way. These aid stations had both Gatorade and water. There was enough to keep the runner hydrated throughout the race since the water stops were about every three miles or so. Even still, those who are more comfortable having water on hand should still wear a hydration belt or a handheld water bottle if they know they tend to drink a lot, or if it’s a milder day on race day.
RunAPalozza offered race pacers to help runners reach their goals. Absolutely take advantage of these pacers. There is a great turn out of runners. But it’s not too overwhelming at the starting line to line up around the desired pacer. Just having that pace sign in view is a great focal point while knowing the runner is sticking to their race day plan when it comes to pace.
It can be hard not to start off too fast, especially at this race because the course is so flat. Stick with the pacer or keep track of your own pace and remember to conserve energy for later. A good strategy is to run strong and steady with the pacer group for the first half, or about 6 miles when the turnaround happens. Then kick it up a notch if the runner is able to for the second half. Other runners might just want to stick with the pace group and give a little gas at the end. Those who start to struggle those later miles know at least they ran a strong first half and now all they have to do is make it to the finish. Even if this means slowing down a little and straying from the pace group. Remember it’s each runner’s race and finishing no matter the time is a great victory in itself.
RunAPalozza Asbury Park Half Marathon is one of the most fun New Jersey runners can have. The course is perfect for half marathon first-timers who will realize that this goal is absolutely in their reach. It’s also one of the perfect for setting a personal record and challenging oneself when it comes to mixing speed and endurance. The atmosphere is enjoyable and the results gratifying. There are plenty of places to celebrate after. Pose for pictures on the boardwalk with the ocean in the back then pick up a post-race beer in the Convention Hall before hitting up one of Asbury Park’s many great restraints and bars.
From Jersey Shore Running Club member Dave DeMonico who play the trumpet on the course to the many spectators cheering with their clever signs, it’s so hard not to smile and get that boost of energy.
RunAPalooza is one of the state’s best spring half marathons that avid runners should experience at least once. Chances are they will keep coming back each year.