Race Review: Atlantic City Marathon
October 21, 2012
I knew it was going to be a chill, easy-going run from the get go. The expo was very small but with plenty of friendly volunteers. It was difficult to find the expo within Ballys itself. This lead me to believe that unless you were running one of the weekends races (5k,10k, half and full marathons) you had no clue any races were actually going on! Once we found it there were no lines and we were able to zip right through. They had a few local running companies and the usual vendors but not much else to look at. I did get my first glimpse of the medal, LOVE LOVE LOVE it!
The race started a bit later than I’m used to at 8 AM on the boardwalk in front Bally’s. I was surprised Ballys didn’t mind that we huddled in the casino and used their bathrooms before the start. Real bathrooms, it was pretty nice! There wasn’t much hype before the race started, just the usual music, but it was enough to keep me nervous. I found my pacer and settled in for the long run, literally. The half and full marathons started at the same time and runners were all mixed together. Since the event was small this didn’t cause a problem until later (but I’ll get to that).
Miles 1-5: Once we got started it was a little cramped getting off the board walk, but it cleared up within the first mile. The first 5 miles are spent getting to and around the Borgata. Its pretty uneventful but the course is well-marked and there was plenty of water stops. There are about 4 small hills you have to climb to get over some overpasses but they were all short and pretty easy to tackle. It was also nice to get your legs woken up at the beginning.
Miles 5-8: After looping the Borgata we headed back towards the new casino Revel (we stayed here OMG amazing, so pretty but very pricey$$$) and the boardwalk. This was really the first time there was any room for fans to cheer on the runners. Again well marked and no hills involved.
Mile 8-12.5: You enter the board walk at mile 8 in front of Revel, from there you’re on the boardwalk for a while. I was nervous about what it would be like to run on the boardwalk for so many miles. To my surprise it made my legs feel fantastic. I had started to cramp up a bit in my left hamstring on the pavement but a mile on the boardwalk and it was gone. My feet also got a little relief as well. Since it was early there weren’t many people outside. It was nice to get to see everything along the strip and the views of the ocean were beautiful. Perhaps we were just spoiled to a fantastic day though, sunny and the low 60’s! The half marathoner’s turn around is just past mile 11. The problem with this is that it’s a little chaotic with runners running towards you on both sides. There is no clear markings as to which side of the boardwalk you should be running on so it’s quite confusing. Thankfully since its not a packed race it wasn’t a huge deal. But I could see this being very annoying if you are on the slower side and have more people running at you than with you. There aren’t many water stops along this part but they had some really nice volunteers making sure everyone got what they needed. From here on out the course was extremely flat.
Miles 12.5-22.5: Unfortunately at this point you exit the boardwalk for a winding 10 miles of back roads and around quiet neighborhoods. Everything was well marked and it was cool to get to cheer on the elite runners as they zoom past you heading back to the start. If you’re not a fan of out and back courses, this race is not for you. While pretty boring there are plenty of water/ Gatorade stops and also gel packets at just about every water stop. You run past some businesses and some pretty jersey shore homes(I mean this in a good way). It was nice to see people sitting out on their front porches cheering us on. Miles 17-20 were pretty painful though I have to admit, you had to share a very tight lane and traffic zooming by not that far from you.
As you can see from the picture below the lanes were tight and this was a two-way course! So again you were “running against traffic” with no lanes marked. Fortunately its a small race and it didn’t cause any issues for me.
Miles 22.5-26.2: Finally back on the boardwalk. At this point the boardwalk is getting much more crowded with tourist and locals going about their daily business. Runners were pretty spaced out so at times you felt like you were running the marathon pretty much by yourself. The worst part about these last miles was dodging the crowds. There was nothing marked off and no signs posted that there was even a marathon going on! They had three water/ Gatorade stops in the last few miles which was really nice to get you through the final push. I still really enjoyed these last three miles despite the issues mentioned above.
The Finish: The finish was great! No lines and plenty of room to get what you needed. Next year I hope they ice the water though, cold drinks at the end would have been nice. They had plenty of food and nice volunteers to get you anything you needed. Food selection was good too, salty soft pretzels, carmel corn and gelato. It was very easy to find your friends and family and they had a nice grassy area where you could lay down, chill out and perhaps grab the free beer your earned. I give the finish 2 thumbs up!
Pros: Pace groups, small crowds, plenty of water stops, flat course, great shirts, great medals, an easy PR course, good if you don’t like big events
Cons: Small expo, the course wasn’t marked very well, not enough bathrooms on the course (So glad I didn’t have any issues!), not enough cheer groups along the course
If you’re looking for a race to set a PR without the mess of a big event this is it. I would do it again in a heart beat!