Numbers2_3Some of the torsos seen at the finish line in 2006.

For the 15th time since it was moved from Asbury Park, shortened to a five-miler and re-christened, the George Sheehan Classic is set to take over Red Bank’s downtown for a couple of hours tomorrow.

Literally, a couple.

If the pattern of the recent past holds, all evidence of the 8:30a main race will have been cleared from Broad Street before most retailers have cracked the lids of their morning lattes.

Img_2483Runners relax in Marine Park after last year’s race.

It’s a point that race director Phil Hinck seems to have to make every year in the face of isolated criticism. Last November, Red Bank Councilman John Curley said the race needed to be rethought because of complaints from business owners and others.

“I’ve had phone calls from nurses who said they can’t get to work” at Riverview Medical Center, Curley said at the time.

Borough resident Ken MacRitchie agrees. He thinks the event is too disruptive of traffic and business and, besides, he wonders, why can’t it be held in one of the beautiful parks Monmouth County maintains?

But the race is hardly disruptive, says Hinck.

For starters, “Front Street is never closed,” he says. And last year, the main event saw its last finisher cross the line not long after 10a; by 10:30, all the race apparatus had been broken down and trucked off, says Hinck, who’s been involved in the event since it was the Asbury Park 10-K (that’s 6.2 miles for the metrically challenged).

Afterward, Hinck says, runners, walkers and onlookers are immediately steered to Marine Park, where an a barbecue and vendor expo is held. At that hour, most stores are just opening for business.

“That’s our push — to get to try to get Broad Street open as soon as possible,” he says.

Of course, there are the small matters of hundreds of cars jamming into town before the race’s start, and the impact on traffic along the race course. Today, Fair Haven police issued an advisory to residents about the effects on Ridge Road, Hance Road and some interior residential streets.

This year’s challenge should be of about the same order of magnitude as last year’s. After shrinking from peak participation of more than 5,000 runners a decade or so ago, the race appears to have plateaued at between 2,000 and 3,000 joggers, walkers, wheelchair racers and lightning-fast Kenyans, who seem always to take the top prizes.

Among the participants to look for tomorrow is Mayor Pasquale Menna, but don’t expect him to keep a Kenyan pace.

Last December, Menna rashly took up a challenge from Councilman Mike DuPont to run the race. Since then, his forward thinking about the event has gone from confidence — he said he’d train with fleet-footed triathlete and state Senator Jennifer Beck — to groans of regret whenever asked about how the training was going.

“It hasn’t happened,” Menna told redbankgreen this week. “I’m not ready. But I have my number, and I’ll be walking.”

The five mile race kicks off in front of Garmany and follows this route:

South on Broad to East Bergen Place

Bergen to Branch Avenue

Branch south (right) to Silverton Avenue in Little Silver

North on Prospect Avenue (left) to Harding Road/Ridge Road

East on Ridge (a right) to Hance Ave

Left onto to Hance, then a left at Hunting Court in Fair Haven

Right at Dartmouth Avenue, then a quick left at Hunting Lane

Right at Oxford Avenue, left at Cambridge Avenue, right at Princeton Road

Left at Lake Avenue, right at Harvard Avenue, left at Harrison Avenue

Harrison to Harding Road, where you take a right for the race’s biggest challenge: Tower Hill

Continue on Harding into Red Bank, where you make a right onto Broad and finish at Wallace Street.

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