RED BANK: SHEEHAN RACE LEAVING TOWN
Runners cooling down on Broad Street after last year’s race. (Click to enlarge)
Red Bank, it seems, has hosted its final George Sheehan Classic, the road race named for the longtime borough physician credited with fostering the worldwide mania for amateur running.
The five-kilometer event, traditionally held in June, will be merged with the Asbury Park 5k in August, according to a cryptic, two-sentence post on the event’s website.
Sheehan Classic organizer Phil Hinck in 2015. (Click to enlarge)
The relocation of the race and its name-change to “Asbury Park Sheehan Classic” were posted on the event’s Facebook page on March 7, with no explanation and little notice.
Race organizer Phil Hinck could not be reached for comment Monday.
In January, Red Bank officials cleared the event for what would have been its 22nd running in the borough. But sometime last month, Hinck informed the borough’s special events committee that this year’s event wouldn’t take place, said Jim Scavone, executive director of the downtown promotion agency RiverCenter.
In a letter to the committee, Hinck cited rising costs, declining participation and difficulty attracting sponsors, Scavone said.
The Sheehan race was named for longtime Rumson resident and Red Bank physician/author Dr. George Sheehan, who popularized the sport through books and newspaper columns. It was launched as a 10k, or 6.2-mile race, in Asbury Park in 1981, and relocated to Red Bank in 1994, and would often attract some 3,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair races.
But as popularity began to weaken, the course was shortened, first to a five-miler, and then, in 2012, to a five-kilometer main event, or 3.1 miles. The change eliminated a nearly two-mile stretch of course through Fair Haven, curtailing the race to Red Bank and Little Silver. In recent years, the race has struggled to draw 1,500 participants.
Prior to its two shortenings, the Saturday-morning race was the subject of grumbling among retailers who couldn’t reach their own stores and felt the event deter other shoppers. But with the shorter races, Hinck was able to regularly break down the finish line and allow police to reopen all streets within 90 minutes of the 8:30 a.m. race start.
Will RiverCenter miss the event?
“Any event that brings some people into the town is always good,” said Scavone. “I don’t know that it did a lot for the businesses. It wasn’t a day where you saw a lot of residual business. But it was good exposure, for sure.”