By David Cruz
Completing a marathon is the very definition of perseverance, but this year’s New Jersey Marathon will celebrate the human spirit in the face of challenges both natural and man-made. The course for this 17th edition of the race has been changed — first by Sandy’s wrath but then by events in Boston on Monday. Monmouth County Sheriff Shawn Golden says he’s been meeting with local police every day this week.
“We’re always kind of planning for worst-case scenarios to happen, and that’s our job. That’s our job to worry about it and keep people safe, and the job of the people who come to visit is to just have a good time,” Golden said. “Obviously, we’ll be following it up with canine sweeps from our canine team here in the county and if we have to call outside, we will, and we’ll have additional officers there, as well as undercover officers, milling about, in and out of the crowd.”
In Asbury Park, where the boardwalk has been a favorite part of the race course, runners will have to settle for the street, because repairs won’t be ready in time for the May 5 race. The same for Ocean Grove, where no one knows when the boardwalk will be fully back. Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider says the race is a big part of the economy for all eight of he shore towns on the course.
“Like every town along the shore, we took a beating during the storm. People lost their possessions; their houses were severely damaged. It’s been a lot of stress. It’s a fun day, so that’s never a bad thing,” Schneider said. “A lot of people, their businesses and their jobs, are dependent, one way or another, on people coming down here and spending money.”
Organizers say they are expecting upwards of 3,500 runners this year; that’s the most in race history. On top of that, they expect anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 visitors — and that means millions of dollars in economic activity, a much-needed shot in the arm, early, in what will be a critical season for the Jersey Shore.