NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Mother nature delivered perfect weather on Sunday, April 17, for the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon and 8K.
The two races are organized by CGI racing, a Garden State-based company, and race management division of Carson Group International, CGI's event management division.
“One of the largest half-marathons in New Jersey, the race will bring over 6,000 runners to the campus of Rutgers University,” boasted CGI in a news release about a week before race day.
According to race results on cgiracing.com, 3,124 registrants completed the half marathon this year, 310 more participants than last year, for the day’s flagship event.
The total number of finishers in the 8k was 920 — 16 more than last year.
Combined participation for both events increased nearly 9% to 4,044 people, this year, whereas 3,718 finished the two events last year. Still, the event is not as large as Hub City's Big Chill, another Garden State favorite, and largest 5k in the state.
Both "Unite" races draw a wide variety of athletes representing many different levels of running and racing experience, as well as some who walk all or part of the courses, and there was no shortage of beginners, aiming for their first half-marathon or 8k finishes.
The half-marathon began at the Werblin Recreation Center on Bartholomew Road in Piscataway, and finished at the corner of College Avenue and Mine Street in New Brunswick, where fun post-race festivities including an awards presentation takes place.
“[The half-marathon] is 13.1 miles of collegiate beauty … Rutgers is one of the oldest, largest and most beautiful campuses in the country. The Rutgers Unite Half Marathon does indeed unite runners of all abilities from elite to novice,” said Michele Redrow, President of CGI Racing, in the release.
“We love being a part of the Rutgers University and New Brunswick communities and have been able to use the Unite Half Marathon as a platform to engage and encourage participation from students, parents, faculty and alumni,” added Redrow.
Rutgers Alumnus and Sr. Pathologists' Assistant at the Cancer Institute of N.J., Wendy D. Reed, age 46, placed second overall in the 8k. Her time was just over 37 minutes. She's also run the Rutgers half-marathon, three times, in past years.
Reed told New Brunswick Today, “The 8k and half courses are challenging but fun. The race is always professionally directed. My only suggestion is to get one of the local watering holes to provide post-race beer!”
A 51-year-old male runner who was virtually by himself, maybe a half mile behind anyone in front of him, and running at about an 11 and one-half, mile per minute pace had just turned onto Landing Lane, and told NBT: "This is my day! I have to get to the finish. Friends are there."
The Rutgers half-marathon is proud to partner with many “worthwile organizations that support national and local initiatives to raise many thousands of dollars,” writes CGI.
CGI says donations to local charities and student organizations have topped $150,000 “since the races’ inception” in 2010, about $25,000 per year.
“Team racing is what sets CGI Racing apart,” notes Redrow, adding that it’s simply fun to finish as part of a team.
“We are expecting hundreds of teams from local running clubs, triatholon clubs, charity groups, and corporate teams.”
Bob Both, is a member of the Jersey Shore Running Club and long-time Race Director for RunAPalooza, which was held on April 16, in Asbury Park. The event includes its own half-marathon and parts of the course cover the boardwalk.
Both told New Brunswick Today that there's nothing wrong with "Corporate Races," saying the U.S. is a free country where free enterprise is encouraged.
Likewise, he feels there is "nothing wrong with a company making a profit from staging a race," noting that it takes lots of work and organizers need to be compensated.
Both says he volunteers thousands of hours of his own time managing races throughout the year, sometimes spending his own money on supplies, for absolutely no compensation.
Both wrote about the "Big Box" trend, in running, as he calls it, borrowing the retail moniker for stores that are difficult to compete with and often drive out family operated mom and pop businesses.
"Many of the long established events such as the Seaside Half Marathon staged by the Ocean Running Club have charged very reasonable rates," Both wrote a couple years ago. "The entry cost for Seaside for example is still only $45 and even less if you are a club member. Compare that to a half-marathon staged by one of the big box organizers with rates around $100 or more."
"Ultimately it is the customer, in this case the race participant, who should decide on whether they would like to spend their money on an event," Both told NBT.
"In many cases non-profits have a competitive advantage in that they get a [discount] on such things as event permits."
He added that many non-profits are set up to take advantage of tax benefits and are often "shell" groups used to pass money through to their officers or in some cases vendors, even when a race is also owned by officers in the non-profit.
"For example, a company that makes race medals can set up a non-profit to stage an event and then sell its medals to the event at inflated prices," Both said.
"So its kind of a double-edged sword and the runner should decide based on what they get for their registration fee taking into account the cost, and such amenities as the quality of the event, what they get for their registration fee."
To be sure, registration for the Unite Half is pricey but signing up very early or using one of several promotions offered by CGI in the months prior to the race can reduce the fee.
Raceday registration was $110, and $95 for students, for the half marathon. The fee was reportedly as low as $65 months ago, for those willing to commit early, but gradually increased as the big day got closer.
Every year, volunteers are needed for both the expo and on race day, given the large size of the event.
CGI has always recruited volunteers to do various tasks in exchange for a full or partial credit for a personal race registration, based on the amount of time volunteered.
But the credit toward the fee reportedly expires if it is not used the year it is earned, or the following year.
Michael Dixon, 33, one of the areas top athletes, who sometimes trains in Hub City’s Buccleuch Park, and won the half last year, cruzed to second place, in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 2 seconds.
“I was happy with my effort,” Dixon told NBT. “The weather was ideal and I pushed hard running alone most of the race.
First place went to Ryan Scrudato, 24, who finished just over 2 minutes faster than Dixon.
“I decided to let [Scrudato] go early on when the pace was too much for me to handle,” said Dixon, explaining that he’s training for some longer trail ultras and used the race as “speedwork for now.”
“It gets a bit difficult at the end of the course when you have to work around all of the 8k runners through [Johnson and Buccleuch] parks and down College Avenue,” added Dixon.
“The leader has bikers and such to help disperse the traffic but being without that help really makes for a crowded and slow final few miles.”