Most people go to the beach for the sun, some go for the seafood, others go for the people watching; but in most cases people go to the beach for relaxation. Including me if your kind of relaxing is sprinting 5 miles for a race and then running 5 more for training.
For the past three years the second weekend in July has been reserved for a day at the beach, well sort of. A day to push my 5-mile time on the flattest course, basically right at sea level- aka the perfect location for a PR. The Belmar 5-mile run was in its 40th year this year, meaning they must be doing something right. The runners come from all over, vacationing families, Jersey locals and from running clubs all over the state.
The race starts on second street and the crowd of runners and walkers stretches all the way to the bridge that connects Belmar to Avon. The Belmar Fire company hangs the starting banner right over the heads of the runners lined up, which gives you a nice warm home like feel.
This past Saturday, June 9, 2016; 3,000 runners lined up in the seventy-degree rain to run 5 miles. Compared to the previous years of ninety-degree heat and high humidity this felt great, especially coming off a week of high nineties and high humidity. I started talking to one woman next to me, she was a season veteran of the Belmar 5 as well as many races on the Jersey shore circuit, she asked me what time I planned to run:
“I would love a 38-39-minute finish, but with the humidity lately I’ll be happy with 40-41″ to which the woman replied,
“I’m in the same boat, trying for a 35 but I’ll take 36-37.”
Trying to be friendly we turned to the younger girl behind us who was by herself and asked her what her goal time was, she looked at us like we were crazy and quickly moved further back in the starting corral.
The races started at 8:35 right when the rain turned to more of a mist. All three thousand of us made our way down Ocean Ave, towards Spring Lake. We were greeted by renters, the Jersey Devil himself, and random people who obviously didn’t know there was a race today and looked terrified to see all of us cruising down the street.
A little over a mile in we made our way around Lake Como, I hate this part so much that I put it on my marathon training route… Yes, you read that right. The lake seems to go on forever it’s over a mile around and to me it’s so, consuming. If it was hotter out this is the part where I start questioning my life motives of why in the world I am doing this. Today, it seemed to flyby.
From Lake Como we turned back on Ocean Ave and back toward the start “Ah, the home stretch!” Or so you think in a cruel turn of events you are ushered down along silver lake and into the back side of Belmar, and that’s when you realize you still have a mile left. The back side of Belmar is my favorite part of this race. Everyone comes out of their houses to see you, kids offer high fives, some people handout waters, when it’s hot the home owners run their garden hoses to the street and put sprinklers on. You also get the empty promise of beer at the finish line, if they only knew it wasn’t directly at the finish.
After you bargain with home owners, you find yourself on the north side of Silver Lake and a half mile to the finish. You kick its high gear, as do the folk next to you. With the finish in sight the crowd at the finish comes in to focus. You can hear them before you see them, with cow bells, horns and a one-man band… If this wasn’t a race you’d think the circus is in town.
With a sprint you rip the head phones out of your ear and push it all out to the finish. A minute better than last year. Third times a charm.
Despite the rain and the cooler temps, the Belmar 5 2016 was probably my favorite year thus far. Without the stifling heat and the heartbreaking humidity there was no issues pushing my all.
After the race was said and done, I walked back to my car, stored my medal and my flower, retied my shoes. And headed out for 5 more miles… Marathon training continues.