For a runner, there is really nothing quite like race day. The crowd, the group of athletes coming together for the same purpose, and the anticipation of the starting gun going off are enough to get any racer’s adrenaline pumping.
Put all of that into the beautiful and quaint setting of Cape May Point, New Jersey, and you have the makings of something very special. This is why I want to share my experience running the truly awesome Cape May Point 5-Mile Race.
My family and I have done this race a few times over the years, and since my wife’s family lives in the Cape May area, it’s a really cool thing to be a part of while visiting them. In fact, her uncle is one of the volunteer firemen who organizes the race (and shoots off the starting gun!)
Keep reading to find out more about Cape May Point and the race itself!
Some Background Information
Cape May Point is located at the very bottom tip of New Jersey and is about a 10-minute drive outside of the beautiful Victorian-themed city of Cape May. Some things to see while you are there include:
- The Cape May Point Lighthouse – Built in 1859, open for tours, and continues to operate.
- Sunset Beach – As the name implies, it’s a great place to catch the sunset.
- Cape May Point State Park – This includes the lighthouse, nature trails, beaches, a World War II bunker and lookout tower, as well as the famous sunken concrete ship (still don’t get the logic behind that one!).
- The Cape May Bird Observatory.
For more information about Cape May Point, CLICK HERE to be taken to the borough website!
It is also home to a wonderful restaurant called “The Red Store”. My wife and I have eaten there once, but would readily go back again. It’s unique in that there is no menu to look at. Each dish is part of a tasting menu the chef has put together beforehand to give you a surprising, yet delicious, culinary adventure of fresh and local ingredients. It is well-worth looking into if you are feeling a little adventurous!
Note that they do take reservations and it is $65 per person before tax and tip. For more information, check out their website by CLICKING HERE.
You may also be pleased to know that Cape May Point is a lot quieter, even during the summer, than the tourist-filled city center. Sure, the lighthouse can get crowded, but there are plenty of places, like the bird observatory and nature trails, to get away from it all.
As for the Cape May Point 5-Mile Race, it usually takes place on the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend and has been
“running” (pun intended) for 41 years now. There are actually two races to choose from:
- 2-Mile Run – This course is one complete lap around the town of Cape May Point.
- 5-mile Run – This course is two complete laps around the town, with an extra loop around the small lake in the middle of town.
Registration can be done online, through the mail, or in person the night before the race. It costs $35 to preregister and $40 to register day-of, with the proceeds going toward the Cape May Point Volunteer Fire Company.
There are awards for a large assortment of categories as well. In addition to first, second, and third overall, there are awards for:
- Top 3 males
- Top 3 females
- First lifeguard
- First fire or policeman
- Top 3 in male and female age groups ranging from:
- 10 and under
- 70 and Above
Friday, June 14 – The Night Before
Now, the time has come to share my experience with the run. As my wife and I live in northern New Jersey, and work in schools, we decided to preregister online. It was quick and easy. The hardest part was fighting the Friday traffic to get down the parkway!
(As a side note, does anyone else find it incredibly frustrating when there is a ton of traffic that all of a sudden clears up without any rational explanation for what caused it in the first place? Is that just me?)
We finally got down to the Cape May Point firehouse around 7:30 p.m. to pick up our race numbers and 5-Mile Run t-shirts. It was a beautiful night and really fun to see all the volunteers sitting and laughing together, eating pizza, and getting things all prepared for the next day. As always, many people seemed to know my wife (small town) and we were able to chat and take pictures of my kids next to the Point’s blue fire trucks.
Our family had picked up dinner for us, which we got to eat at around 8:30 p.m. It was a great pasta dinner (I wanted to make sure my carbohydrate levels were good for the next day), however, I was a little concerned that we were eating it so late and the 2-mile race (we did not sign up for the 5-mile ) began at 8:15 the next morning. Again, thanks so much, New Jersey traffic!
We all got to bed a little later than we had hoped, but not too bad. Thankfully, I think I was so tired from a day’s work and the drive that I slept well. Sometimes, the excitement before a race can interfere with sleep.
Saturday, June 15 – The Morning Of
I woke up and was super pumped for the race (and anxious to get there on time. As any parent will tell you, trying to get two small children moving in the morning can be a chore), but had already laid out the clothes I was wearing and placed the pins in the race numbers.
This is an important step, I think, in race preparation. Don’t wait until the morning of to pick out what you are going to wear. Inevitably, you won’t be able to find it if you wait, and you’ll be scrambling to get to the starting line on time. You want to race after the gun goes off, not before!
For breakfast, I had done my research and opted for something carb-centric, but not too heavy and hard to digest (I could still feel the weight of the previous night’s pasta!). I chose a Cliff bar and a banana, which worked for me, but may not be for everyone. I also didn’t chug water, but rather chose to sip, as I didn’t want that being a catalyst for an upset stomach or cramp come race time.
The family got out of the house, somewhat later than we had hoped, but in enough time to get to Cape May Point, find parking, and quickly walk to the starting area. The quick walk wasn’t a bad thing because it got my body moving and starting to warm-up.
For me, I don’t usually do an extensive warm-up. I have found that lightly doing some jogging, jumping jacks, and dynamic stretching gets me going enough without expending too much of the energy I am trying to save for the actual event. Your body may be different.
In fact, there was one guy who was jogging at a pretty steady pace and sweating a decent amount. It all depends on your body and how you best warm up.
Soon enough, everyone was called to the starting line. I got pretty close to the front line and made ready to set off on my two mile adventure (a little nervous about the pasta heaviness I could still slightly feel).
Saturday, June 15 – Bang!
Those few moments between the call to readiness and the bang of the starting gun are just plain awesome. The quiet before the storm. The last moment before a ton of energy bursts free from nearly 200 people beginning to run together. Then…
Off we went, and as usual, the adrenaline of racing took over and I started out fast. Not a sprint, mind you, but I wanted to at least keep up with the leaders until everyone got over that initial excitement and settled into their pace. Every runner has their own strategy for a race.
Some like to get ahead and stay ahead the entire race, fending off challengers looking to pass. Others would rather hang back a bit and gradually work their way up, picking off those who expended all their energy in the early going. I’m somewhere in the middle of those two.
I ran cross-country in high school (I’m now 33 years old) and as I stated before, I usually start fast to keep up with the leaders, and put some distant between myself and those behind. As the race progresses, I pick off who I can.
However, there is one thing I always forget at the start of a race that my body quickly reminds me of. The thought that ran through my head after about the first 200 yards or so of the race was, “Whoa, I’m tired… I think I might die…” My legs started to feel like jelly and my breathing was way too heavy, way too quickly. It was my body telling me, “Run YOUR race, not everyone else’s!”
That’s important for anyone who is looking to do something like this. Run YOUR race, and stick to YOUR plan.
With that, I backed off the throttle and settled into my pace. I could tell there were a heck of a lot more people behind me than their were in front of me and if I was going to keep it that way, I needed to relax. It usually takes me anywhere from a half mile to a mile to really get into my groove and for my body to get over the initial shock.
Sure enough, a mile soon came and I was feeling pretty good again. I started to gain confidence and began to pick a few people off. It was going really well!
As we were getting to the mile and a half marker, I saw what must have been a 15-year-old getting winded in front of me. I made my move and was able to pass him. I was hoping that it would stay that way, but apparently he either got frustrated or mad, because shortly after that, he increased his speed and eventually passed me again.
At that point, I had made my move and didn’t have the energy to make another one. Oh well. Lesson learned. I made my move too early. I guess he couldn’t bear the thought of an older guy beating him.
On a funny note, I saw who I would later find out to be an 8-year old start the race fast. I thought, “This kid is going to gas himself if he keeps this up. He’s way too young to sustain the pace!” Yeah, well sustain it, he did. He kept going, getting further ahead, and I never saw him again. Good for you, kid. I think you may have a future.
We finally rounded the last turn of the race and I saw the finish line. I have always liked to really bust my butt and sprint across the line. The only problem is that with this race, when you first see the finish line, it is still probably a good quarter-mile off, so it is sometimes difficult for me to gauge when I should begin my sprint.
However, I was finally able to pick my spot, start my sprint, and finish strong! I had been hoping to finish in around 15 minutes. During my training beforehand (which I wish I had started a little earlier) I was doing 2 miles in about 17 minutes. Well, when I crossed the finish line, the clock read 15:10 and I was very pleased with the result.
It’s amazing how much difference it makes when you are competing in a race rather than training by yourself. There is more adrenaline driving you to push your limits.
After catching my breath and waiting for my family to cross the finish line, we took a walk back to the firehouse to wait for the results. They had a table set up to pass out free root beer and the local Cape May Brewing Company was offering a cup of beer to those who had signed up for it (I believe it was free if you are into that!). You know…hydrating beverages!
When the results came in, while I had been hoping to place in my age group, I had just missed it by coming in 4th. Overall, I completed the 2-mile run in 15:10 and placed 22 out of 178 runners overall. All in all, it was a great day, a beautiful run, and I felt accomplished!
Something Everyone Should Experience
We have always had fun whenever we had the chance to take part in the Cape May Point 5-Mile Race. It’s a beautiful setting, it’s not too long that the whole day is taken up by it, and it is an incredibly family-friendly event. I’m already looking forward to the next time we get to go down and do it. Who knows, perhaps next time I’ll be up for the 5-mile race as well!
I think it is something that, if you are ever in the area over Father’s Day weekend and you enjoy racing, is truly worth your time!
Now it’s your turn. Let me hear from you! Have you ever done either of the Cape May Point races? Is there a favorite race of yours that you’d like to suggest we check out? What are some tips that work for you when preparing and running in a race?
Let me know in the comments below. Additionally, if you have any questions about the race or running in general, feel free to ask away!
Until next time, happy running everyone!