I found the perfect race to accomplish this: The April Fool's Half Marathon in Atlantic City. It's put on by the new and very upscale casino/resort, Revel, and will run 2/3 of its distance on the Boardwalk, starting at the northern end and running south until the boardwalk runs out and we're dumped onto Atlantic Avenue for a couple of miles.
I booked my room at the Courtyard by Marriott, just a few blocks away from Revel, and then cashed in some frequent flier miles with United to fly into Philadelphia. Rental car and 65 miles heading SE will get me to my hotel. Some Google map browsing found a grocery store not too far off the tollway where I could stop to buy some bananas, fresh berries, crackers, cold cuts and cheese, Gatorade, and some cookies to have in my hotel room. A little more Google searching found a Subway sandwich shop just a few blocks from the hotel, right on my route, where I could buy a foot-long sandwich - half for lunch that day, half for lunch the next day.
|Boardwalk view from the beach access ramp|
|Steel Pier - closed for winter, but opening later this month|
|Boardwalk deserted; cold and windy!|
Once I got checked into the hotel and had eaten some of my Subway sandwich, I braved the dreary damp weather and cold winds to walk the several blocks to Revel to pick up my race packet. There was no fitness expo - just packet pickup - so it was a long cold walk for very little return. But I did stop at one of the shops along the boardwalk and bought myself an inexpensive sweatshirt to wear on race day morning. It was going to be colder than I'd anticipated - or packed for - and the worse part of any cold race-day morning is standing around shivering, waiting for the race to start.
Not much was happening on the Boardwalk. It's apparent that it's still the off-season and many of the shops and restaurants are closed. But judging from the billboards promoting big-name acts coming to town, the season starts to crank back up after Easter. I'm a little disappointed in that, because I booked my hotel and flight assuming I might see a show on Sunday night before heading home. That's not going to happen...there aren't any acts appearing here in town on Sunday.
Another Google search yielded a Starbucks in the lobby of the Showboat Casino/Resort next door to Revel so a stop was in order!
|What a difference a day makes! Gorgeous|
on the Boardwalk on Saturday
I found a bench and just sat there, enjoying the sun and my cappuccino while I people-watched for awhile. At one point a couple of gals wandered by, pausing to take each others' photos with the ocean and sand behind them. I offered to take their photo and they quickly agreed to let me.
A little further down the boardwalk I found another bench and continued my people-watching. Then I realized that right across from me was Fralinger's Taffy shop, an historic institution on the boardwalks of Ocean City and Atlantic City. So of course I had to wander in and browse a bit before buying a small box of mixed salt water taffy.
I was surprisingly disappointed, as the taffy was dry and stale and had no flavor. It was a far cry from what I remembered buying and eating at the beaches of my youth.
By mid-afternoon I knew it was time to head back to the hotel, put my feet up, and find a movie on TV, get everything laid out and ready for race day morning, and set my smartphone alarm for 6 AM.
Race day morning! Sunny, but about 5 degrees colder than forecasted the night before. But not a big deal. The sun is out and winds are calm. A good contingent of Half Fanatics are running this race and a time was discussed on the Half Fanatics Facebook page for a photo meet-up at 7:45 AM, 15 minutes before the race start. I timed my departure from the hotel to arrive at the start line a few blocks north in time to join in on the group photo.
Originally I had planned to wear the cheap sweatshirt at the start of the race and remove and discard it as I warmed up, but on the lee side of all the buildings on the west side of the boardwalk, it became apparent pretty quickly that I wasn't going to need the sweatshirt. I removed a safety pin from my bib and tore off the bag-check tag from the bottom of my bib and, pinning the tag to the sweatshirt, I quickly turned it into bag-check to be retrieved at the end of the race.
We got our photo, and then I weaved my way through the runners in the starting chute to work my way toward the back of the pack with just a few minutes before the race started.
National Anthem and then 3-2-1 and we were off, crossing the start line. I was surprised at the size of the race...bigger than I'd imagined it would be.
The first 4 miles were on the Boardwalk, running from its start to the north to its terminus to the south. The next 2 miles were on Atlantic Ave heading south, then a turn-around and retrace our steps heading back north, back onto the boardwalk and then toward the finish line.
|Race route (data from my Garmin GPS watch)|
They had a real-time results tent set up at the finish line and before heading back to the hotel I checked my time and age/gender place to see if I'd won anything. I didn't, but still managed to come in 6th in my age group. I had $10 tucked into the small zippered pocket on my running tights, with every intention of heading toward the Starbucks at the Showboat Casino next door to Revel. I handed the soggy money over to the cashier in exchange for my Vente cappuccino, which I gratefully sipped as I walked back to the hotel.
|Crossing the finish line|
|Cool finishers medal!|
So now I have that little white spot colored in on my 50 States-50 Half Marathons map.
I'll spend one more night in Atlantic City, then head toward Philadelphia and my flight home.
Next up: A weekend visit from the grandkids and then a week after that, I'll run a race in Iowa and color in another state.