A Brief History of the New Jersey Marathon
Marathoning at the north Jersey Shore had been a tradition from 1972 to 1985 with the original Jersey Shore Marathon. Its tag-line was "The Peoples’ Marathon" and was organized and directed by Tom Baum.
The Jersey Shore Marathon was a successful event for many years and was used as a tune-up for the Boston Marathon by many of the participants. It was always held during the winter months of January and/or December. The original out-and-back course, with an Asbury Park start, turn-around on Sandy Hook and return to an Asbury Park finish was not to last though, and became many different courses over the following years.
When its date was moved to November, the JSM came too close to the ever expanding New York City Marathon that had moved from multiple Central Park loops to the 5-boroughs race and the Jersey Shore Marathon ended. That was 1985.
Fast forward to 1995 and the idea of staging a "world-class" marathon at the north Jersey Shore was actively promoted by the future Race Director, Art Castellano (from 1997 through 2011).
After months of planning, a Feasibility Study was produced that showed great interest and support within the active running community for a marathon race. The study also helped to acquire the needed sponsorship from Monmouth Medical Center.
To honor our sponsor, MMC, and to give the marathon a cause, it was named the "Jersey Shore McMarathon, a benefit for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Branch".
For the first staging, April 27, 1997, we had 700 registered runners and about 600 finishers and we have never looked back. Each year it has grown larger, improved on the course and amenities, and then it was renamed "the New Jersey Shore Marathon to benefit children’s charities".
In 1999, the "New Jersey Shore Marathon" was renamed as the "New Jersey Marathon-at the Jersey Shore".
In 2005 the town of Sea Bright (a critical section of the course, at the exit from Sandy Hook) informed the race organizers that, due to safety reasons, all sporting events were banned from the town’s roads. Sea Bright has only one main road, and it runs north/south which was the same road used during the marathon.
As always with this event, when one door closes another fortunately opens. The door that opened for us was Long Branch. Thanks to the support from the Mayor, City Council, residents and business community we were able to reinvent ourselves, again, as an urban marathon with a great half marathon course running through many diverse neighborhoods and business districts of Long Branch and Monmouth Beach. During the next 6 years the races had an oceanfront start and finish, and saw the birth of the Long Branch Half Marathon to honor our "host city" and a 2-loop course for the now "New Jersey Marathon" began our new growth spurt. Starting in 2011 the full marathon course became a 1-loop course and we added 5 additional Shore Towns to expand the course south of Long Branch, to a turn-around in Ocean Grove. Starting in 2012 the start will be moved to Monmouth Park in Oceanport, and the finish will remain on the Oceanfront Promenade in Long Branch.
In 2005, and on our original course, we topped-off with a field of 2,000. In 2006, with our newly invented 2-loop course, we registered 4,000. In 2007 we registered 6,500 with 45 states and 10 countries represented. In 2007 we instituted an 8,500 limit and closed registration for the first time weeks before the event date which was then moved to the first Sunday in May. We continued our growth each of the following years to 12,200 in 2012. Our race has grown each year since the inception, and we expect to continue our growth, to 20,000 participants within several years.
We are still staging the NJM Weekend of events on the first weekend in May each year with a new 12,500 registration limit for 2012, and implementing new ideas to allow for much larger fields. In addition, we now provide a special NJ Transit "Marathon Train" from NYC Penn Station to Monmouth Park Station to help "green" our event by keeping hundreds of cars off the roads with central parking at Monmouth Racetrack to alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems. We have also taken other important steps to be good stewards of our planet by providing: biodegradable race day gear bags made with 50% recycled materials, eco-friendly event t-shirts, tap water at many of our on course fluid station, and a very large recycling program.
We have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to make the needed changes to keep the NJM alive and prosperous over the years, and are making several more in 2012. We have improved our full marathon course, in spots, in order to make it faster and safer, while at the same time using less of our host city's and town's roadways. We are adding a speaker series to our Health & Fitness Expo at Monmouth Park, and a post race celebration at our finish line in Long Branch, to name a few of the changes for 2012.
We have also been fortunate to have been able to maintain both the focus on the runners (and walkers) and on the community charities we support. In the mold of the original Jersey Shore Marathon, "The People’s Marathon".
We still do not attract elite runners since we do not offer prize money. Instead, we offer a "world-class" marathon for all, and support running in New Jersey! On behalf of the Race Organization Committee, we hope that your weekend with us will be a very pleasant experience for you and your supporters, as well as the residents and businesses of the eight Northern Jersey Shore towns which support our events in such an outstanding manner!
Joe Gigas, Executive Race Director
The New Jersey Marathon – at The Shore