The Atlantic City Marathon gets new life thanks to some timely help.
It was a sad day in late September for Barbara Altman, local radio host and the longtime race director of the Atlantic City Marathon, as she made calls to the local media. The race, a more than 50-year tradition in the city, would not be held since no race director had been found. After 20 years, Altman was stepping down and had not found a capable replacement. The announcement came less than a month before the marathon’s scheduled Oct. 18 date.
It was a sadness that would last all the way through breakfast the next morning.
Altman had no way of knowing it, but one local organization was already working to save the race. The staff of Margate’s Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center was on the case. And they were moving fast.
“We didn’t know that Barbara Altman had stepped down and that the race was in trouble until she announced that it might have to be cancelled,” says Brian Barry, director of development for the JCC. “So that very morning when the news came out our executive director, Jack Fox, called a meeting and basically asked us what we thought. So we said, “Let’s see what we can do.” I think we were on the phone to Barbara by 8am that morning. We have a pretty longstanding tradition in the area ourselves and we think it’s important to preserve our traditions.”
Less than a week later, it was announced that the race was back on, albeit with a new date of Nov. 15 and a new organizer — the JCC.
“I was just so excited when they called,” says Altman. “I can’t tell you how much I wanted to see the race continue. I’m thrilled and I’m just as thrilled that it’s the JCC that’s taking it over. With their staff and their expertise, I just know the race will continue to grow. I don’t know who is more excited; them for taking over the race or me that they are the one’s taking over. I want the race to continue for 100 years and with them I know it can become one of the premier races in the country.”
That’s a sentiment shared by the new organizers as they look ahead to the 2010 race and beyond. But there was one little catch, namely the 2009 race. The center had all of six weeks (if that) to organize this year’s marathon. The race was on in more ways than one.
“How long do you have?” says Barry, who now adds A.C. marathon race director to his title, when asked if its been challenging. “I think any race director for any race in the country would tell you the process is full of challenges. For us, the very first challenge was the change of date and getting the word out so that we would have runners. That’s obviously the first step — getting runners.”
Fortunately for the marathon, runners have a way of keeping up with races. The JCC quickly got the word out through their own Web site, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitor Authority’s site and Facebook and other social networking sites. More importantly they put the word out to running sites, the most important being active.com, which lists races around the country along with registration info.
“I really don’t know what race directors did before the Internet,” Barry says. “Active.com has brought us a lot of attention.”
By early November the marathon had more than 300 runners signed up, with a goal of getting 500 to 700 runners by race day. Adding to the attraction for runners is the fact that the AC Marathon is an official qualifying race for the 2010 Boston Marathon, something Altman put in place. Still, it’s not a bad response for such short notice.
However, there is more needed to put on a marathon than runners.
“There are three phases to organizing a race,” Barry says. “You need runners, you need sponsors, but just as important is the volunteers. We have six water stations to man, which is really 12 since they get passed several times. You also need people to man registration, you need course marshals and there are a lot of positions to fill. We need about 225 volunteers and we’ve been reaching out to school an local community groups.”
Again by early November, the JCC had more than 100 volunteers and the number was growing, Barry says.
So the race is indeed on and the boards will once again be filled with runners, a tradition that actually predates World War II. The first incarnation of the race was suspended during the war, but was later revived in the late ’50s by The Inlet Social and Athletic Club.
“The first race director was Ed League, but it wasn’t called the Atlantic City Marathon,” Altman says. “Eventually it became the A.C. Marathon again around 1960. Eventually, The Boardwalk Runners Club took over the race in the early ’80s. Altman, part of the club, took over the reigns about 20 years ago.
“When I took over, I think interest in a full marathon in the area was starting to wane,” Altman says. “So I wanted to make it different. I wanted to make it a real attraction. So we started adding events and more races, like the half marathon and the children’s fun run. Eventually, a lot of other races in the country saw what we were doing and did it as well.”
The race now includes: the marathon, a half marathon, a 10-K run, a 5-K run, a two-mile, non-competitive Health Walk and a free Freda Spano Kids Fun Run.
After 20 years as race director, however, Altman decided to step down and the club began looking for a new director. A search that was fruitless until the JCC stepped in.
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ATLANTIC CITY — The organizers of this year’s Atlantic City Marathon, organized through the Katz JCC in Margate, have clearly made a decision. Let’s spice things up a bit. Yes, they’ve got a 53-year-old marathon tradition and the race is still a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. More than 3,000 runners have already signed up for the events (which include a half marathon and a 10K and 5K run), easily topping last year’s 2,700 runners and with more likely to register on race day, Sunday, Oct. 16. And this year a new course design is in effect to take better advantage of Atlantic City’s northside Boardwalk and the scenic back-bay views of Downbeach. So the racing part is there and going strong. All that was left was to spice...
“We haven’t even put on a race yet, but what [the recognition from Active.com] shows is that Atlantic City is a national power. And being able to offer a triathlon is just another step in the evolution of progress in Atlantic City.”
Organized by the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, the event is part of an effort to create more non-gaming and family oriented activities in the city.
The Marathon has also upped the prize pool for the race to about $18,000. The marathon winners, male and female, will receive a $2,500 cash prize...
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