No question, the George Sheehan Classic is still an important event for Red Bank, bringing in several thousand participants and onlookers who spread around some cash and create a festive vibe in town for nearly 24 hours.
This years edition, the 13th since the old Asbury Park 10K was moved here and renamed for Doc Sheehan, will be run Saturday morning, augmented as usual by a popular a runners expo in Marine Park both Friday night and after the race.
Its still one of the premier road races in this region, attracting world-class runners. And Broad Street takes on a completely different complexion with all those scantily-clad, sweaty runners embracing one another after conquering Tower Hill.
But lets face it, Old George hasnt got the freshest legs.
First of all, turnout is in decline. Ten years ago, the Sheehan peaked at between 5,000 and 6,000 runners. If last years numbers hold, Saturdays main event, a five-miler, will have 2,500 to 3,000 runners. Entries this year are a little slow, says race director Phil Hinck.
The softness this year maybe partly attributable to a scheduling conflict that advanced the event from its usual slot later in the month. That, in turn, put it just two weeks after the Spring Lake Five, another of the five summer races that make up the Jersey Shore Golden Grand Prix Series, now in its third year. (The others, which Hinck also directs, are the Belmar 5 on July 8; the Asbury Park 5K on Aug. 12; and the Pier Village 5K in Long Branch on Labor Day.)
But the overall participation trend is down, and that would seem to make the event vulnerable to the occasional, if muted, grousing about its impact on traffic, parking and retail activity. And this year, the race falls on the same day that the Two Rivers Antiques Show and Garden Tour kicks off at the Red Bank Armory Ice Complex on Chestnut Street. The two-day event begins at 10a., and is several long blocks west of the race route. But for antiques hunters who want to start browsing earlier, and in the downtown proper, the race is an obstacle.
Its a little bit of a battle with some of the objectors, Hinck acknowledges, but the routes open by 11. Last year, the organizers began reserving parking at the White Street lot for impacted retailers.
The benefits are even less clear for the race-route towns of Little Silver and Fair Haven, which have to put up with some traffic disruption but get none of the zest that comes with the pre- and post-race activities. Thats nothing new, of course.
What do you think about all this? Are there ways to revive Old George? Is it still worth the hassle? Weigh in via Comments, folks.