SPRING LAKE FIVE MILE RUN
The Jersey Shore is a hotbed of New Jersey running and it has been for quite some time. Our miles of scenic boardwalk, numerous trails through woods and along rivers and our wide roads through some of the prettiest towns you'll ever see makes running so much more than a form of exercise. It seems only fitting that our area in southern Monmouth County spawned the iconic "Spring Lake Five Mile Run".
The SL5 was unique in its concept even from the beginning. There were no age-group awards, the T shirt bore no sponsor's names on the back and the focus was always on fun as opposed to competition. While the aforementioned characteristics were planned, the race also benefited from decisions like simply switching the race day from Memorial Day Monday to the Saturday of that weekend thus insuring its title of the "unofficial start of summer".
There's a reason why the SL5 is called a 'run' rather than a 'race'. While a very small group of very skinny fit looking people toe the line looking to win, the vast majority of runners are running for the fun and experience of it. Many a person who is getting up at 5 AM February 1st to register is doing so based on a bet made during the Christmas holidays. It is not uncommon at all to see three generations of family members running together on race day.
I know of no other race that engenders the amount of anticipation as to what the race shirt will look like. From that design comes the logo on the pint glasses given to every runner along with a calendar. It's safe to say that if you visit a runner's home in our area and ask for your beer to be in a glass, it'll be from the race.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Spring Lake 5 is the precision and organization in it's staging. There are still some procedures being used from the first years but it's been an evolving process that is scrutinized yearly with an eye towards constant improvement. Some of the folks involved have either run it or worked on it since its inception and, in some cases, have learned the hard way. What's that old saying?? "Good judgement is the result of experience, experience is the result of bad judgement". I spoke with a runner after this year's race who was staying at the Essex and Sussex which overlooks the heart of the race. She had the unique perspective of watching the whole set-up transpire in the morning, took part in the race and after returning to her room, watching the complete break-down of the area to where Ocean Avenue looks like nothing ever took place. This transformation takes place in a matter of hours.
Next year will bring the 40th anniversary of the Spring Lake 5. I'm sure the race organizers are already planning a suitable commemoration for New Jersey's most iconic race. It's gonna be hard to top what they've come up with for the 39 SL5's be