Athletics Magazine

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

By Sohaskey

‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.­
– Bruce Springsteen

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

(This report is for the Oct 2021 edition of the Atlantic City Marathon… and with that, we’re all caught up!)

In American football, it’s called an audible—a last-second change called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage in response to the opposing defense. And whether it be due to scheduling, injury, or a global pandemic, when your goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states, you’ll probably find yourself calling a few audibles. Whether you like it or not.

After August’s rough go at the New England Green River Marathon in Vermont, all the pieces were falling into place for a more promising October. With many Americans vaccinated and some even boosted, the country was finally starting to move beyond the pandemic. People were beginning to travel again. And for the first time since the Bataan Memorial Death March in 2018, my brother and I were planning to run a marathon together, this time at the highly acclaimed Mount Desert Island Marathon along the coast of Maine.

All the stars were aligned: our reservations were in order, we were both ready to run, and we’d even talked our sister into joining us from Texas for a weekend of sightseeing and hiking in nearby Acadia National Park. It was shaping up to be an awesome trip.

And yet this blog post isn’t titled “The 19th Mount Desert Island Marathon” now, is it?

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Sunrise on the Atlantic City Boardwalk

On September 11, an email announced that the Mount Desert Island Marathon (scheduled for Oct 17) was cancelled, citing “the recent surge in local COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant, coupled with an already strained medical and emergency services community.” Not the race’s fault, of course—in situations like this, community events like marathons are always the first to go and the last to know. But the news was particularly frustrating in light of the fact that both the Maine Marathon on Oct 3 and the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust Half Marathon on Sept 18, the latter of which was sponsored by the local Mount Desert Island YMCA, seemingly went off without a hitch.

And so, once the initial angst and disappointment of a ruined family weekend passed, it was time to quickly call an audible. October is tricky—it’s the busiest marathon month of the year, and in non-pandemic years the month presents a wealth of riches for 26.2ers like me. In 2021, though, my October options were more limited with some races—for example, the Marine Corps Marathon—becoming pandemic casualties and others falling too late to allow a reasonable recovery before my last race of the year, the Dallas Marathon 50K (the event’s 50th anniversary) on Dec 12.

But there was one race weekend that fit the bill nicely. If I’m being honest, I’d normally not fill a coveted October slot with a New Jersey marathon; however, two factors swayed my decision. First, I’d yet to run in the Garden State, and with April’s New Jersey Marathon cancelled indefinitely due to a loss of venue, Atlantic City stood out as the best of a notably weak slate of candidates. (On that note, New Jersey and Connecticut seem to be the only two states that do not host a marathon in any of their three most populous cities; in New Jersey’s case that’s Newark, Jersey City and Paterson). And second, our old friend John Points—last seen on the Vermont/New Hampshire border weeks earlier—would be running Atlantic City as his own New Jersey marathon and his 48th state.

So while Chuck chose to run his hometown Long Beach Marathon (apparently to his mind the Jersey shore ≠ the Maine coast), and despite any misgivings I may have had about an oceanfront Las Vegas, I decided to push all my October chips to the center of the table and roll the dice on Atlantic City.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
At the convergence of Boardwalk and Park Place

Along the Boardwalk
Fun fact about Atlantic City: it was the real-world inspiration for the board game Monopoly. And yet despite the familiar street names that appear at intervals along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, there’s no overt nod to the most popular board game of all time. Apparently there used to be a life-size Monopoly game board outside the Bally’s Hotel & Casino where Boardwalk and Park Place—the game’s two most expensive properties—converge. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy and never rebuilt.

Now I found myself at that same real-world corner of Boardwalk and Park Place, steps from the Atlantic Ocean on a crisp, clear October morning. This wasn’t Acadia National Park to be sure, but on the bright side we’d undeniably turned October lemons into lemonade.

The rising sun cast the Boardwalk, the surrounding buildings and our fellow runners in a warm, peach-tinged light as the start corral filled for the 63rd running of the Atlantic City Marathon. First run in 1958, Atlantic City bills itself as “the third oldest continuing marathon in the United States” behind only Boston (1897) and Pikes Peak (1956). Perhaps not the most likely place for one of the nation’s longest-running marathons, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this 50 states quest, it’s to always expect—and appreciate—the unexpected.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
“Corral”ing John into one last photo before he tackles state 48

Spying John in the tightly packed corral, I pulled up alongside and we chatted until the muted sound of the national anthem reached our ears. Wishing him well in state 48, I turned and Scooz me, pardon me’ed my way forward until I reached the 4:05 pace group. I didn’t need to reach the front; I simply didn’t want to start so far back that I ended up wasting valuable energy weaving around other runners on the narrow Boardwalk. Having spent several miles doing just that as part of my “last man starting” fundraising campaign in Houston, I knew all too well the gruesome toll it would take on my legs by mile 18.

The crowded and mostly mask-free corral felt like the unofficial end to both the pandemic and social distancing. A moment later the scantily clad mass of bodies pulsed forward without the fist-pumping, speaker-searing sendoff I’d expected from New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen and his 1975 hit, “Born to Run.” Someone here had clearly dropped the ball.

Crossing the start line, I removed my mask and joined the flow of runners headed east into the rising sun. The Boardwalk beneath our feet remained wet from the previous night’s rain, and together with the blinding sun, the uncertain footing in a tight crowd made for a challenging start.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
The start line for the race and the finish line for social distancing

Keeping my head down, I was grateful that no more than a quarter-mile passed before we left the Boardwalk and turned northward, transitioning to asphalt for a 7½ mile circuit of residential neighborhoods and highway off-ramps. I felt unexpectedly good as I cruised along at an 8:30-ish/mile pace, the surrounding high-rises providing sporadic shade from the morning sun.

One memorable stretch in mile 2 took us through the well-lit tunnel on the Atlantic City–Brigantine Connector. The tunnel was a pleasurable distraction as it provided momentary shelter from the sun’s intense rays. Exiting the tunnel, I briefly fell in with the 3:50 pace group before pulling ahead as we navigated the Marina District past the sparkling waters of Absecon Bay. Though the route so far was largely access roads and concrete scenery, these bay views helped to alleviate the boredom of the early miles, and I was appreciating a very pleasant morning run as we circled back the way we’d come toward the casinos.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
The Boardwalk offers plenty of room for running

As no fan of casinos, I’d made a fortuitous choice to run the Atlantic City Marathon in pandemic times. In a typical year, the marathon’s pre-race expo and packet pickup are held inside the aforementioned Bally’s Hotel & Casino, one of the city’s nine remaining brick-and-mortar casinos. In the interest of public health and better-safe-than-sorry, however, the 2021 expo was moved outside to the more limited confines of Bally’s Beach Bar overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Even a long queue under threatening skies couldn’t dampen my spirits, as I’d rather wait in line oceanside for 45 minutes than spend five minutes in a stuffy casino.

Thanks to that near miss, and our decision to stay in nearby Absecon rather than along the Boardwalk, I managed to avoid setting foot in a single casino during our two-day stay. 🙌

On that note, the allure of Atlantic City ain’t what it used to be. Once dubbed “The World’s Playground,” this oceanside resort town has seen its fortunes fade in recent years with a decline in casino revenue and the resulting closure of several waterfront casinos. Donald Trump’s eponymous properties once accounted for nearly a third of the city’s total casino revenue, an era of excess that imploded first metaphorically and then literally when, in February 2021, dynamite reduced the derelict building—and yet another failed Trump enterprise—to rubble.

Granted it’s dicey (pun intended) to judge a tourist destination like Atlantic City by its offseason vibe, and especially coming on the heels of a global pandemic, but the Boardwalk felt very much like a ghost town with a number of shops and restaurants closed during our visit.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Crowds on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, Jan 1920 (Bettmann/Getty Images)

Seeing the 3:45 pacers come into view ahead of me, I pulled back on the throttle to stay between them and the 3:50 group. Whereas 3:50 felt like the day’s best-case scenario, 3:45 wasn’t happening. Still smarting from a difficult day in Vermont, my “A” goal for Atlantic City was to run at a comfortable yet restrained pace and to finish before high noon, that is, in less than four hours. I didn’t care if I bonked later in the race; in fact, that would be par for the course. I just didn’t want to go out too fast and end up ruining an otherwise beautiful morning. Besides, this was essentially a training run for my next target race, the Dallas 50K in December.

I stayed a few paces behind the 3:45 group until we returned to the Boardwalk for my first Katie sighting of the day. Flashing her a thumbs-up, I slowed a bit to let the 3:45ers pull away. It was time to find my rhythm and knock out these middle miles.

Cruising along the wide-open Boardwalk, which was sparsely populated at 9:15am, I glanced up to see a spectator sign that read Keep going, you can do this Mike! Either Katie in her non-athleisure jeans and puffer jacket had somehow beaten me to this spot, or here I was the proud beneficiary of secondhand support.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
New Jersey Korean War Memorial, located at Boardwalk and Park Place

In mile 10 we passed “GO” aka the start line, though unfortunately there was no sign of Monopoly’s own Rich Uncle Pennybags handing out $200 to every hard-working runner.

Running on the Boardwalk at this early hour was a pleasure. With the Atlantic Ocean as our constant companion we ran past casinos, past the (Ferris) Wheel at Steel Pier, past the Ripley’s Believe It or Not with its giant planet Earth protruding from the faux-damaged façade. We ran past the New Jersey Korean War Memorial, past two Starbucks, and past an enormous screen showing a trailer for the new James Bond movie.

With our western progression came a conspicuous transition from garish glitz to easy opulence. Casinos and tourist shops gave way to cute beachfront condos and increasingly lavish homes. The entire Boardwalk felt more reminiscent of Manhattan Beach back home than of Las Vegas, which to my mind was a good thing. The nice, wide Boardwalk was much less crowded and claustrophobic than the Vegas Strip. And running a stone’s throw from the ocean never sucks.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
The early bird gets the beach before the humans (📸 John Points)

Glancing upward, I noticed seagulls bobbing gently on the brisk breeze as though held aloft by an invisible hand. They reminded me of the department store displays I’d seen as a kid with a colorful beach ball seemingly forever suspended in the air above a blowing fan.

Having read reviews and talked to previous finishers, I knew to be vigilant for loose boards on the Boardwalk. To avoid problem spots I tried to run on the screws that fastened each board in place, under the assumption that the farther I strayed from these screws, the more likely I’d be to encounter a loose board. With this in mind I never had an issue with footing, nor did John who was likewise cautious. Sure, once in a while a board would yield slightly underfoot, but there was always a springiness to it that felt bouncy rather than hazardous.

In mile 13 the Boardwalk ended—we’d run all five miles, end to end—and we zagged over to Atlantic Ave just south of Marven Gardens, the inspiration for another iconic Monopoly property. Here it occurred to me that the 13.1-mile mark would have been the perfect opportunity for the organizers to set up speakers and blast some motivational “Livin’ on a Prayer” by New Jersey rock icons Bon Jovi. Whoa, we’re halfway there…

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
We all take our motivation where we can get it on race day

Atlantic City sightseeing
Heading west on Atlantic, I kept my eyes peeled for local celebrity Lucy the Elephant who, according to the course map, lived right around mile 13.8. Built in 1881 to attract prospective real-estate buyers, the six-story architectural spectacle originally named Elephant Bazaar and now known as Lucy the Elephant has become a centerpiece of Atlantic City tourism. Once a real-estate office, then a hotel, and more recently an Airbnb rental, the beloved pachyderm is the nation’s oldest surviving roadside attraction. In 1976 Lucy earned the designation of National Historic Landmark, ensuring its status as a permanent resident of both Atlantic City and the hearts & minds of kitsch-loving Americans.

Seeing Katie just past mile 14, I paused to ask whether she’d seen Lucy—after all, a six-story elephant with an ornate carriage on its back is tough to overlook. She gestured across the street to where the object of my desire stood like a caged animal, its mammoth physique completely enclosed by a six-story lattice of construction scaffolding. Its enormous backside was all I could see through the dense web of scaffolding, which served to dissuade all curious comers. Apparently Lucy—biologically a boy, based on its imposing tusks—had closed a month earlier after an inspection revealed the need for an extensive skin transplant to replace its degraded outer covering. Fifteen months and $2.4 million in renovations later, Atlantic City’s hometown hero would reopen to the public in December 2022.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Welcome to Lucy the (caged) Elephant; the massive head with tusks is to the left

I could practically taste my disappointment. Rather than dwell on the unfortunate timing of Lucy’s makeover, however, I set my sights instead on the mile 16 turnaround. Soon I was passed in the opposite direction by a focused, fleet-footed woman coming back from the turnaround. Despite her easy fluidity of motion, what struck me were her long and glamorous eyelashes. The sight of them momentarily took me aback; seeing false eyelashes on a speedy marathoner felt conspicuously out of place, like seeing a cheetah riding a skateboard. I attributed this to the fact that marathoners tend to be more stereotypical in their appearance and behavior than runners as a whole. If false eyelashes can help me run that fast, I thought with a smile, count me in.

As my tired brain struggled to reconcile this walking (or running) contradiction, Atlantic Ave and Absecon Island approached their shared endpoint with a coastal stretch past quaint seaside homes, one of which featured a concrete dolphin sculpture as its mailbox. Where is that freaking turnaround? I thought as Atlantic Ave curved out of sight, and I fought back the mental lassitude that comes with simply wanting something tedious—in this case the “out” portion of the out-and-back—to end.

Several blocks later and just past the mile 16 marker, we reached the turnaround point at the southern tip of the island, where I paused to appreciate the view of the Ocean City–Longport Bridge across the bay before continuing back the way we’d come.

I was enjoying myself, as I always do on race day. At the same time I felt uncharacteristically workmanlike, and I realized my motivation hadn’t fully rebounded from the cancellation of Mount Desert Island. So I focused on staying strong as I ticked off the miles, gauged my pace and fatigue at regular intervals, and forced myself to stay hydrated with frequent sips of water or Gatorade. And unlike most marathons I paused for only a single picture, this one at the mile 16 turnaround.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Ocean City–Longport Bridge seen from the mile 16 turnaround

I can’t be sure because I never saw them, but I feel like somewhere along this out-and-back stretch the 3:50 pace group must have passed me. Not that it mattered; as long as I kept the slower 3:55 pace group in my rearview mirror, I’d allow myself plenty of buffer to ensure my “A” goal of a sub-4 finish. Because I didn’t want a repeat of Vermont.

After the mile 16 turnaround, I immediately began to look ahead for the next upcoming turn which would take us on a loop of Margate, “a community of beautiful beaches and dramatic bay views” according to its website. Marathon organizers often need to get creative to string together 26.2 miles of runnable roads, a particularly difficult task in smaller towns with fewer roads, and the Margate neighborhood would be a prime example of this creativity.

As we turned north into a troublesome headwind in mile 18, a spectator held a sign that read, “If you can read this, you’re not running fast enough.” I saw her point but had to disagree—despite reading it easily enough as I approached, my body let me know I was running plenty fast.

We cruised past seaside homes and businesses for nearly half a mile before again reaching the water. There, a right turn led us along the bay for another mile before a clockwise loop of a local park—its tennis and basketball courts sparsely populated this morning—sent us back the way we’d come along the bay. Clearly this route was designed to eat up mileage in the service of running a full 26.2.

Along this stretch we were greeted twice (on the out and the back) by the only live on-course entertainment, a guitar-driven rock band named Hightide that actually sounded pretty good and whose music carried well on the wind. Due to unfortunate timing, though, the only lyrics I remember were, “I won’t forget to put flowers on your grave.” Welcome to mile 20, runners!

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Touring the Margate neighborhood, mile 22

With the wind gusting and fatigue setting in, the Margate loop was the most tedious section of the day. If I’d had one, I would’ve gladly played my “Get Out of Margate FREE” card here.

Heading south, I paused for a quick Katie pit stop before turning left for one last stretch along Atlantic Ave. Ahead of us, the caravan of orange traffic cones extended to the horizon. Time seemed to slow as I sluggishly retraced my steps past a scaffolded Lucy and past groups of enthusiastic spectators, many of them unexpectedly yelling “Jiayou! Jiayou!” (a Chinese cheer of encouragement literally meaning “Add oil,” which I’d last heard along the course in Tokyo).

Glancing up to see John coming the other way, I held up my hand to high-five him as we passed. “You’re under four hours!” he encouraged me with a smile as we passed. I’d better be, I thought, my brain running low on appreciation in mile 23.

Another fellow followed closely behind John, grunting loudly and barking out guttural sounds like the oversized dude in the gym who wants everyone to appreciate just how much effort he’s putting into his workout. His verbal discharge sounded downright painful as he chugged along. Does he do that for 26.2 miles? I wondered. I’d hate to have to run near him.

Just as I started to feel like we were running on an endless asphalt treadmill (“Jane, stop this crazy thing!”), the route zigzagged off Atlantic and back onto the beach Boardwalk for the final 5K. Focusing inward I almost missed seeing Katie in mile 24, and by the time my brain processed her presence I’d already passed with a weak nod and with no intention of turning around. Not that she expected me to; with three miles left it was time to bear down and get ‘er done.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Back to the Boardwalk, mile 24

Landing on Boardwalk and Park Place
Looking up I saw Bally’s—and beyond that, the Hard Rock Hotel—rising above the Boardwalk in the distance. Bally’s was our final destination, and with that as motivation I set my mind to reeling it in, one step at a time. Despite my half-hearted attempts to maintain pace, I could feel my cadence slowing as my legs grew increasingly heavy. In any case, I was determined to enjoy this home stretch.

With pedestrian traffic still relatively light along the Boardwalk, I wasn’t forced to play Frogger with fellow tourists as John would have to do later in the day. Good thing too, because that was energy I didn’t have left to waste.

Aside from the Hightide boys and someone later in the race holding a small speaker that predictably pumped out “Eye of the Tiger,” music had been scarce along the course. No Springsteen, no Bon Jovi, no “I Will Survive” from Gloria Gaynor—no Garden State musicians of note, period. Chalk it up as a lost opportunity.

Never had I been so euphoric to see casinos, the sleeping giants now serving as a long-awaited Welcome home. As we passed under the elevated walkway that connects Caesars Atlantic City with the high-end retail therapy of the Playground Pier, the finish line emerged from the shadows right where we’d left it.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
The home stretch: elevated walkway between Caesars and Playground Pier

Like the iconic board game its host town had inspired, and perhaps like a certain race report, the Atlantic City Marathon had felt at times like it would never end. And yet here I was, basking in the cheers of finish-line spectators and pumping a fist toward Katie before stopping the clock in a very reasonable time of 3:53:38, some 40 seconds slower than my brother’s own finish time at the Long Beach Marathon a week earlier. State 35 was in the books. ✅

Hobbling though the finish chute on the former site of the life-size Monopoly board destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, I collapsed on the concrete to gather my wits as Katie joined me. “What a stupid hobby,” I told her, repeating my mantra from past finish lines. I’ll often reach the finish of a half marathon—as I had in Long Beach seven days earlier—feeling strong and with energy left in the tank. Not so for the marathon. As American legend Bill Rodgers aptly put it, “The marathon will humble you.” Every. Single. Time.

Reluctantly pulling myself to my feet, we wandered through the post-race area where I saw a few unappealing post-race snacks laid out on a table. Aside from a race merch tent and an Honest Tea booth handing out samples, the dearth of vendors pointed to another pandemic-related casualty.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
All boards lead to the finish line

The finish-line PA announcers did a nice job keeping the energy high as they announced names, greeted incoming runners, and filled the lull between finishers with congratulations, anecdotes, and announcements for upcoming events in their Atlantic City Race Series. I heard them welcome a couple of 50 States finishers across the finish, one of whom had taken more than 20 years to complete his quest. I made sure to congratulate each of them personally.

Katie and I strolled the wide-open Boardwalk, enjoying the sparse crowds and seeing what we’d missed the day before. The post-race party was in full swing as we passed, the sounds of live music drifting well beyond the lively patio of Bally’s Beach Bar. Returning to the scene of the crime, we cheered a still-smiling John across the finish line of his 48thstate. With just Alaska and either Massachusetts or Vermont to go, the ultimate finish line was now in his crosshairs.

(In the intervening 15 months since October 2021, John went on to run the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon in Massachusetts in May 2022 before completing his 50 States quest at the Anchorage RunFest in Alaska in Aug 2022. Congrats to my friend and fellow Rice alum! 👏)

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)
Post-race “pain management” with friends is a key part of the 50 States journey

That evening, the three of us reconvened for dinner at LandShark Bar & Grill, the only year-round restaurant located on the beach side of the Boardwalk. And though darkness kept us from enjoying the ocean views, we were able to quench John’s thirst for post-race “pain management,” as he cheekily refers to his pastime of sampling local brewpubs in every city he visits. The food at LandShark was better than expected, the beer made it that much better, and John’s always entertaining company ensured that another successful marathon weekend went down smoothly.

Certainly it wasn’t Acadia National Park, but the 63rd running of the Atlantic City Marathon easily exceeded my expectations, and I can appreciate why runners nationwide named it the best marathon in New Jersey. The clear consensus seems to be that among Garden State marathons, Atlantic City is The Boss.

And yes, I had to go there… ‘cause tramps like us, baby we were born to pun.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

BOTTOM LINE: Life is all about setting and managing expectations, and the Atlantic City Marathon is no exception. If you toe the start line alongside Bally’s Hotel & Casino expecting to run the next World Marathon Major, then you’re likely to be disappointed. But if instead you temper any preconceived notions and open your mind to the beach Boardwalk and quaint seaside neighborhoods, you may just find yourself singing the praises of the nation’s third-oldest marathon. Even if you’re a casinophobe like me.

Atlantic City tends to get a bad rap as a seaside tourist trap with a fading patina of relevance, but for one sunny offseason day in October the town provided an enjoyable and uncharacteristically healthy diversion for its visitors. I appreciated the diversity of the scenery, from urban roads and neighborhoods to seaside stretches along the bay to 8+ miles on the iconic Atlantic City Boardwalk. (I should mention that despite the occasional board yielding slightly underfoot, running on the Boardwalk was an agreeable experience, and neither my friend John nor I encountered any rogue loose boards—a not-uncommon complaint among Atlantic City reviewers). Fans of Monopoly will likewise enjoy seeing many of the real-life streets and properties that inspired the most popular board game of all time. And depending on which way (and how hard) the wind blows on race day, Atlantic City acquits itself well as a fall Boston Qualifier thanks to its scant 45 ft of total ascent. If you like your marathons flat, this is about as flat as it gets.

Preferring to avoid the Boardwalk casino scene as much as possible, we opted to stay in an Airbnb in nearby Absecon, a 15-minute drive from the start line. This decision—together with the organizers’ one-time decision to hold packet pickup outdoors (as opposed to inside the Bally’s Hotel & Casino)—enabled me to avoid setting foot in a single casino during our stay in Atlantic City.

So if you’re a traveling runner searching for an East Coast fall marathon or a 50 Stater looking for an above-average New Jersey option, I’d recommend you roll the dice on Atlantic City 🎲. After all, any town that votes to blow up a Trump property must be doing something right.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

PRODUCTION: Production-wise, the Atlantic City Marathon operated like a race that’s been around for 63 years—because it has. Race day featured an abundance of aid stations staffed by friendly volunteers, oversized mile marker flags (many with digital displays showing elapsed time) for most if not all miles, and enough orange road cones to make the most dedicated traffic safety officer jealous. What’s more, despite dropping the ball by not blasting New Jersey icon Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” as our start line sendoff, the announcers did a nice job of keeping the energy high at the finish line by calling out names, congratulating incoming runners, and recognizing 50 Staters who were completing their epic quest in Atlantic City.

On the flip side, as with most races that offer runner tracking, the service worked sporadically at best and proved reliably unreliable. And whereas the post-race email promised “FREE official event photos will be email[ed] and posted on social media on or before Friday,” in the end no photos were emailed, and the official photos from MarathonFoto were decidedly not free. Not that I need more pictures of myself “running” with both feet on the ground, but the bait and switch annoyed me more than the lack of free photos.

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

SWAG: I can happily report that for bling connoisseurs and apparel aficionados alike, the swag was a highlight of the Atlantic City Marathon experience. The finisher medal, which doubles as a bottle opener, is among my favorites (see photo). Not only does it depict the state’s tallest lighthouse, the Absecon Lighthouse situated at the northern edge of the city just off the marathon course, but the lighthouse lamp—the real-world counterpart of which was extinguished in 1933—blinks with the help of a small battery. Literally and figuratively, a brilliant touch. Similarly, thanks to LA’s mild winters I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of the attractive, lightweight half-zip emblazoned with a colorfully styled print of the Absecon Lighthouse and seagull flyby on the back. Both are thoughtfully designed pieces of race day memorabilia that reflect well on Atlantic City’s hometown race.

Updated 50 States Map:

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

RaceRaves rating:

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

Oct 17, 2021 (start time 8:00 am)
26.42 miles in Atlantic City, New Jersey (state 35 of 50)
Finish time & pace: 3:53:38 (first time running the Atlantic City Marathon), 8:50/mile
Finish place: 394 overall, 49/153 in M(50-59) age group
Number of finishers: 1335 (831 men, 504 women)
Race weather: cool & clear (51°F) at the start, warm & sunny (61°F) at the finish
Elevation change (Garmin Connect): 45 ft gain, 44 ft loss
Elevation min, max: –9.8 ft, 19 ft

The 63rd Atlantic City Marathon (NJ)

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