The New Jersey Marathon will have some big changes this weekend, including a new starting location and schedule.
The marathon will now start at Monmouth Park in Oceanport in an effort to increase parking and space for all participants, according to Race Director Joe Gigas, of Long Branch.
The race is set for Sunday May 6, but there will be some time changes this year.
The half marathon and half marathon relay wheelchair will begin at 6:50 a.m. and the full marathon will start at 8 a.m.
"We need our spectators to know to get there early," Gigas said. "One reason the marathon is so successful is because of the fan support. They are are a tremendous help for the athletes."
Gigas said a shuttle will be available to take spectators from Monmouth Park to the finish line located on the Promenade in Long Branch.
The race configuration will also change slightly because of the new starting location.
The full marathon travels through Oceanport, Monmouth Beach, Long Branch and then moves south to Ocean Grove. The participants will turn around in Ocean Grove and make their way back to the finish line in Long Branch.
The half marathon also travels through Oceanport, Monmouth Beach and Long Branch. However, once the participants reach Brighton Avenue in Long Branch, they will turn around and head to the finish line on the Promenade.
Gigas said there will be post race party at the finish line with bands and entertainment.
"In the past when people finished the race, the just got their things together and went home, now they will have something fun to look forward to," Gigas said.
Gigas said there were over 11,000 participants at last year's event and that there are about 9,000 registered right now.
"We are expecting to have about 12,500," Gigas said.
Gigas said he is also excited about the events that will lead up to the marathon and half marathon.
"We will have bands, speeches and exercise classes on Friday (May 4) and Saturday (May 5)," he said.
While, the expo and other events will keep the athletes and their friends and families entertained in the days leading up to the race, the marathons are still the main attraction of the weekend. Athletes train for months to prepare themselves for the 26.2-mile marathon and 13.1-mile half marathon.
Oz Pearlman, a 28 year old professional magician from Manhattan, and Bronawyn O’Leary, 35, a teacher from Cliffwood Beach, set personal bests in winning the men’s and women’s divisions of the 15 th New Jersey Marathon last year. But for every Pearlman and O'Leary there will be hundreds of others who will be running their first marathon or half marathon.
Beginning runners, walkers and athletes with disabilities are all invited to participate and New Jersey Marathon conducts a series of training runs and related events to help participants of all levels to prepare.
Registration for all events, course views, information about volunteering and sponsorship and details of the entire weekend of activities and more are available at the race web site at www.NJMarathon.org.