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Training for Cape May's Ocean Drive Marathon  

by Jane Kelly

The Ocean Drive Marathon aka the Jersey Shore Marathon aka the Cape May Marathon alwasy happens at the end of March, which means those of us who wish to participate must begin to plan and train.

By us, I don’t mean those who are running.

By us, I mean those of us who stay on the sidelines and offer encouragement to the brave souls who actually choose to run 26.2 miles from Cape May to Sea Isle City without a braying pit bull at their heels.

The point-to-point race starts bright and early in Cape May, in front of Congress Hall, and travels right up the coast, much of it along the Atlantic Ocean, through the Wildwoods, Stone Harbor and Avalon before ending in Sea Isle City.

As an observer, you must plan your strategy:

Are you going to stay in one spot or move along with your runner?

If you choose to move from Cape May to Wildwood to the finish line at Sea Isle City, you’ll be making your way to the course several times. Make sure you are in shape to drive, then park then walk those blocks.

If, instead you try to pick one observation spot midway (North Wildwood?), you'll be doing a lot of sitting – waiting for the runners and, as the day goes on, waiting inbetween runners. Don’t put yourself in the position of not having sat that long in years. Be prepared. Practice sitting.

No matter where you'll be, if you plan to stand up to cheer or to dispense refreshments, practice getting out of your chair at least three times, three reps, three days a week before marathon day.

As the big race approaches, cut back on your regimen. You’ll need your energy for race day. You might want to get a massage a few days before just to make sure your muscles are up to the challenge.

And don't forget carbo-loading on the day before the race.

A lot of the decisions you’ll be making in the days before the race are weather-related. Despite your best research, the weather can be mercurial.

  • Dress in layers. Remember the weather affects more than your choice of clothing.
  • If marathon day promises to be cold, choose a chair with wooden arms. Metal arms can get very cold.
  • Clothes with big pockets allow you to stash extra clothes and snacks so you can keep your hands free for cheering and waving.

Speaking of cheering, prepare a script of encouraging terms: “Way to go.” “Lookin’ strong.” “Doing great.” Create a list of names. It doesn’t matter if you recognize any of the runners.

Try to gauge the age of those that need encouragement.

  • Common names for those born in the 1950’s include Gary, Ronald, Linda, and Patricia. In the 1960’s many parents went with Mary, Karen, Susan, Robert, Mark and William.
  • Amy, Melissa, Jason, Brian, Jeffrey, and Kevin were popular in the 1970’s.
  • Joshua, Daniel, Justin, Matthew, Jessica, Ashley, Melissa, and Amanda were popular names in the 1980’s.
  • Jennifer and Michael, Christopher, David, and James are perennials.

Shout these names and it’s likely you’ll provide someone with the encouragement they need to reach the next town.

If uncomfortable with yelling names, fall back on “Looking good, bro” and “Way to go, girl.” The encouragement will be much appreciated.

Visualize race day

See yourself along the course, whether at the starting point in Cape May, midway in North Wildwood or at the finish line in Sea isle City. Equipped with supplies for any contingency. Pacing yourself throughout the day. Staying mentally strong. Listening to what your body is telling you. You’ve done the work. You can expect a successful marathon experience.

About Jane Kelly's Marathon experience

Jane Kelly’s family boasts close to two hundred years of cumulative experience watching others run. Many years ago, her brother’s family just happened to move to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. When she says they moved to the starting line, she doesn’t mean they moved to the same town or to the same street. You can saunter out their front door and start the race – which incidentally no Kelly ever chose to do until 2001 when in a burst of atypical overachievement, her nephew John actually entered – and finished -- the race. Generally, however, Kelly family members stay on the sidelines. They are happy to share their experiences to help others make the most of their marathon watching.

Jane Kelly is the author of three mysteries with a humorous twist set at the Jersey shore.

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