Story by Jenna Moldaver • Photos by Patrick Olivero |
RED BANK – The streets of downtown Red Bank were alive and bustling early Saturday morning for the inaugural Red Bank Classic 5k, which drew about 1,000 runners and their supporters to the downtown.
Among the participants were Gov. Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy of Middletown, who surprised many in the crowd when they showed up in sneakers to run the race together.
“A bunch of businesses and the Red Bank community got together and we decided we needed a community event like this and to bring a race back to town,” said organizer Angela Courtney, a member of the Business Alliance. “It just organically happened and it grew into this amazing event. We expected 500 people and got over a thousand.”
While runners and their supporters gathered on Broad Street, local businesses showcased their products and services in Marine Park. Kitch Organic, Jersey Shore, Evolution Acupuncture and more set out pamphlets and samples under tents throughout the park. While the main action of the day took place a few blocks away, Marine Park was a site of relaxation, offering foot massages, paddle boarding and yoga for runners and community members to enjoy.
A pre-race warmup offered by fitness professionals Mike Rodgers Jr. and Elizabeth Murphy guided the runners in stretches, offering motivational words as the race start neared.
On each side of the throng of runners, supporters watched from sidewalks, taking pictures, cheering and holding signs like those of Red Bank residents Wallace and Messiah Woods, a father and son who made signs reading “Run Honey Run” and “My Mom is # Run.”
Runners came in every variety: experienced, first-timers, solo and in groups. They ranged from under 14 to over 75. There was a special fun run for the younger set.
The overall winners were Ean Jaffe, 17, of Holmdel (0:17:18.0), Kerry O’Brien, 34, of Belford (0:17:22.7), Anthony Scamardella, 19, of Red Bank (0:17:45.3), Sean Rath, 34, of Atlantic Highlands (0:18:20.3) and Abraham Calderon, 15, of South Amboy (0:18:36.2).
The Murphys finished at 27:06, placing them in the top 25 percent of finishers.
Of the 31 teams that competed, the top finishers were Sweetest Sins, Orangetheory Fitness, Shrewsbury First Assembly of God, Red Bank Eye and CrossFit TreeHouse II.
More than 30 runners represented Red Bank Eye. The group of colleagues and customers donned team T-shirts with their enthusiasm. “Almost the entire office is out here,” said Eatontown resident Tom Sasso. All of the results have been posted and can be found at redbankclassic.com.
The event brought together families, friends and the community at large, a feat Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna described as the primary goal of the race. He likened the lively event to his experience growing up with a particularly strong sense of community in Italy.
“I was born and raised in Italy and I remember as a kid, everybody would meet in the piazza, the square, to eat or drink,” Menna said. “People would just walk around, meet their neighbors, talk, and it was a lively place. In a lot of respects, Red Bank is a little bit like that because we do have a very safe, active downtown and what you do see a lot is that it brings a focus on community.”
Menna said this race, the first road race in Red Bank since the long-running George Sheehan Classic ended in 2015, is an important step in revitalizing this focus. He said he believes these types of events are essential in uniting a community.
“All of a sudden, you realize that we’re really this small world and somebody who’s a different color, somebody who’s got a different faith, somebody who acts differently than you, they’re really just people,” he said. “They’re humans just like we are. It’s just a matter of mingling.”
Throughout the morning, this community spirit pervaded moments both big and small: a woman extended her hand to her husband so they could cross the finish line together; a father pushed his infant son in a stroller for the entire 3.1 mile course; friends discussed the plight of uphill treks and unforgiving leg cramps as they reveled in post-race glory over bagels in Marine Park.
From the volunteers handing out water bottles to the triumphant friends posing with medals at the finish line, Red Bank beamed with community pride.
Road races may have taken a hiatus in the town, but community members tied up their laces once again without missing a step.
This article first appeared in the June 21 – 28, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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