Running a marathon relay allows racers to take part in their favorite events without committing to running the entire 26.2 miles—or even the half marathon option. Runners can take on a mid-distance alongside teammates to conquer the course together in an experience that lies between relay races from high school track & field and what we see at the Olympic Games. And running the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon Relay is a great event for a first timer.
For the first time this year, the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon allowed participants to register for its marathon relay. Held on Sunday, April 28, the first-annual NJ Marathon Relay consisted of teams of four runners who together tackled the 26.2 together.
Going The Distance
Runners decided among themselves who would run the legs of the race. This included: 8.6 miles, 6.4 miles, 7.1 miles, and 4.1 miles.
All runners met at the race start at Monmouth Park Race Track where the first runner took off. The other three runners boarded buses and were shuttled off to their transition locations. The good thing was that the last two runners shared the same transition place so teammates could stick together while they waiting their turn.
The runners are then shuttled to the finish where they can meet up with their teammates and watch their last runner finisher.
This year the race expo location changed and was held at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park. Only one runner needed to pick up the relay packet. This content four bibs, all with the same race number, as well as the wrist-worn chip that serves as the baton.
The race expo for the NJ marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, and 5k this year was much better than last year’s. Presented by Diadora, race swag was on point. There was plenty of running clothing gear—both basic items with the race logo as well as more fun shirt options with the race design this year that gave off retro vibes. This also included exclusive NJ Marathon Goodr glasses sold, as well as the popular running sunglasses other options. There was also running fuel and other running accessories for those needing last minute items.
Other cool parts of the expo were the free printed photos and the ability for supporters to create signs.
Race day morning was a whole other story. The traffic was insane, and it’s absolutely recommended to arrive early to the race. Even expecting to arrive an hour before the start of the race can result in major traffic that pushed this way back. Leave 90 minutes early or carpool. The good thing is that parking is free at the race track and there are free shuttle buses for everyone to get back to their cars from the finish.
As for the relay race itself, it went down just as a runner could imagine. Once that first runner took off expect lots of waiting for the other teammates. It is pretty uneventful until runners start to pass. Even those who are super fast need enough time to run close to 9 miles before the next leg. It ends up being a long morning, especially for leg 3 and 4 of the relay.
This year it was cold at the NJ marathon relay. It was hard not to shiver just sitting or standing there waiting at the transition area. Luckily, there were thermal insulation foil blankets for runners.
The waiting game can get a bit boring if alone and not with other teammates or supporters. But the NJ Marathon recommended runners download RacyJoy, an app to track runners to get alerts as to where the runner was in terms of miles. This allowed teammates to know exactly when they could expect their runner to come in.
Once the runner was in sight, the next runner waved them down and exchanged the baton. Then they took off to complete their leg of the marathon relay until either reaching the next runner or finishing the race.
The last runner received all four medals so it is up to the other runners if they can or want to stay until the end of the race or meet up with their team later.
WHAT IT’S LIKE THE RUN A MARATHON RELAY
A Team But Solo Venture
There is no short of team spirit when running this marathon relay. It’s just a different and exciting way to race. Runners know their teammates are counting on them, so they are pushed to perform their best. Yet, they have their teammates for support. They are there cheering them on as they pass the baton and meet at the finish. They are there during the training process, and even after the race for the next big event. These teammates are often running friends, or become friends through the process. Each person needs each other to compete for the distance. It’s humbling as a racer, yet the perfect way to ignite running fires.
Despite being a team event, the NJ Marathon Relay is very much a sole adventure. The runner is shuttled off probably alone unless other friends as also running the relay. Then there is the long waiting period—again probably done alone. Then the baton is passed and its time to run—alone.
However, technically all races are run alone. Even if the runner is competing with their running buddies, a race is unique to each racer. That runner is the one putting in the work and it’s their legs that takes them to finish line. The same applies to this relay. Only it; it’s so much more exciting because of the scale of this event.
My only critique is that not all runners got racing photos. This runner’s specific team only received photos of two of the four runners. This is a disappointment for those looking to share their race experience on social or to have for themselves.
Running With Marathoners
The best part of the NJ Marathon Relay is the ability to run next to marathoners (and almost marathoners). The half marathon course does have some sections where racers are running with marathoners, but the course does split off. The latter part of the relay is unique because it’s only those running 26.2 miles and those who are running their portion of the 26.2.
Finishing a marathon is arguably the biggest accomplishment runners may have the opportunity to experience. And the relay runners might not be there just yet. But the relay allows them to get a taste at just what it might feel like. They are up close and personal to see the grimacing and smiling faces of those going the distance. The energy from pace groups and supporters cheering from the sidelines is enough to get any runner going. It is so inspiring and makes running at most close to 9 miles feel like nothing in comparison to their efforts.
NJ Marathon Relay: What To Expect
This course is flat and fast, perfect for a first-time marathoner. But since these runners aren’t ready for the entire 26.2, it is still just as fast for those running the legs of the course. Keep in mind that there are some harder parts of the course. The first leg is the most mileage but also has the most excitement since it’s the starting line. The last two legs have sections like the boards that can be a slight challenge if slippery from rain (which it did start to drizzle this year).
There is plenty of water and Gatorade on course. There is literally no way anyone can be dehydrated during this event. The good thing is these water stations are at transition areas too so those waiting for their turn can get some water and eat their pre-race snack.
Even though this was its debut year, the NJ Marathon Relay is a great relay because it’s one of the best races in the state. Runners get to run to the boardwalk, pass Asbury Park and the iconic landmarks and staples to the shores. There are so many people on that course holding signs and cheering runners on. It’s hard not to want to come back and race every year. That’s why the relay is the perfect option for those who want more mileage than a 5k, but have one too many half marathons on their spring schedule.
Plus the race medals keep getting better and better for this event every year. This year the NJ Marathon also had awesome shirts, different colors for the various distances.
Why Run This Race
This race is ideal for those who live in or near the state who are looking for a fun and flat course during the spring running season. It’s a great way to race with friends and participate in the iconic race without committing to a full marathon. It’s a great way to support other runners who are looking to increase mileage while racing. This race specifically is the biggest one of the spring, perfect for those who want their first marathon relay to be on the big stage when it comes to racing events.