Mayor Pasquale Menna may live to regret his pledge to axe borough health benefits for himself and future mayors.

Last night, in what appeared to be an off-the-cuff retort, Menna said he would run the George Sheehan Classic, a somewhat grueling — Tower Hill, anyone? — five-mile race to be held June 14.

The promise came during light debate over a proposed resolution to reauthorize the annual borough-based race, which shuts down Broad Street for several hours on a Saturday morning and takes about 3,000 runners into Little Silver, Rumson and Fair Haven.

“I support the race. It provides another vital resource to the town,” said Councilman Michael DuPont. “But I would make it a condition that the mayor run in it.”

“I’ll take that challenge,” Menna said, without hesitation.

If the aim was to win passage of the resolution, it was an unnecessary commitment on Menna’s part. Though Councilman John Curley reiterated misgivings he’d voiced before about the race’s impact on local business, last night he asked only that, for the 2009 event, organizers find a new route, one that’s less disruptive to the downtown. The resolution passed unanimously.

Still, Menna said, “Since DuPont laid down the gauntlet, I’ll pick it up and run with it.”

Menna, who’s better known for his culinary skills than for his athletic ability, said he’d be run the race with state Senator-elect (and former councilwoman) Jennifer Beck, who’s an experienced triathlete. That prompted Curley to say that Beck would be far out in front of him.

Menna won’t have to balance training with campaigning for re-election, though. He’s just wrapping up the first year of a four-year term as mayor.

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