RED BANK: NEW ‘CLASSIC’ 5K SET TO RUN

Runners head down Branch Avenue in the 2015 edition of the George Sheehan Classic, which turned out to be the last. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

After a three-year rest, Red Bank is set to again lace up its running shoes Saturday with the debut of Red Bank Classic, organizers said.

Here’s what you need to know:

The race course is entirely within the borough’s borders, unlike its predecessor, the George Sheehan Classic. (Click to enlarge)

• About 1,000 runners are expected to participate in the main event, a five-kilometer (3.1-mile) race, said Angie Courtney, of the Red Bank Business Alliance, which divided organizing duties with the Community YMCA.

That’s comparable to the turnout for the final running of the George Sheehan Classic, which left town after 2015, returning to its Asbury Park birthplace. (See history below.)

This one differs, however, in that it will be run entirely within the borders of Red Bank, whereas the Sheehan cut into Little Silver and Fair Haven.

• Like Sheehan race, the main event will start and end on Broad Street, and the first mile or so follows the same course, turning east at East Bergen Place.

But instead of heading south on Branch Avenue, this race heads north on Branch, wending its way to Harrison Avenue and Mechanic Street, where it turns west toward the downtown finish.

The course distance has been certified by USA Track & Field. Timing will be provided by Split Second Timing, with participants able to get their results via email within seconds of crossing the finish line.

• The roads along the course will be closed to vehicular traffic during the race except for two stretches: westbound traffic will be allowed on Harding Road between Tower Hill Avenue and Prospect Avenue, and southbound traffic will be permitted on Prospect Avenue Harding Road and John Street.

Residents along the course were sent a letter alerting them of “temporary no parking” allowed along the course, with free parking in the Mechanic Street and Wall Street municipal lots Friday night and all day Saturday.

• No overnight parking will be permitted along the race course on Broad Street Friday night, and that stretch will be closed to traffic starting at 4 a.m. Saturday.

• Parking elsewhere downtown is free until 10 a.m.

• Bib and t-shirts can be picked up Friday between 4 and 7 p.m. at the Red Rock Tap + Grill, or the morning of the race at a registration tent in Marine Park. The first 500 registrants can expect to get a bagful of swag. Those who finish the race will get a medal.

• The Atlantic Club will offer racers a warm-up on Broad Street at 8:15.

• As with the Sheehan race, the organizers have pledged to clear the streets by 10 a.m., in time for downtown merchants to begin opening their stores. The Sheehan organizers consistently met that goal.

A small portion of Broad Street will remain closed until completion of the kids’ dashes, which are expected to wrap up at 10:15.

• Other activities include the Kids’ Races, at 10 a.m.; a Fitness Fest in Marine Park from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a host of free demonstrations, including yoga, stand-up paddle and crossfit; and a post-race party at the Red Rock Tap + Grill featuring the Fat Back Band starting at 11 a.m.

• Registration for the 5K costs $35; the kids’ race fee is $15. Proceeds of the event will be donated to the to Red Bank Department of Parks and Recreation and to the Community YMCA.

•  The event is rain-or-shine, but rain doesn’t appear to be an issue. According to the National Weather Service, Saturday will be sunny, with temperatures heading to daytime peaks near 84 degrees.

• Dogs and strollers are allowed in the 5k race, but owners are asked to “keep the course safe for everyone” by being aware of nearby runners.

• Some history: In 2016, a year after what turned out to be its final edition, the George Sheehan Classic — named for the late Red Bank physician/author who popularized recreational running through books and newspaper columns — ended a 21-year run here, citing rising costs, declining participation and difficulty attracting sponsors.

The race came to life in 1981 in Asbury Park, where it covered a 10k route, and relocated to Red Bank in 1994.

At its peak, the event would often attract some 3,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers. But as popularity began to weaken, the course was shortened, first to a five-miler, and then, in 2012, to a 5k.

The race was returned to Asbury Park as a 5k in 2016. This year’s edition is scheduled for August 11.