On Saturday morning, I loaded up my mom’s Subaru Baja with cans of Pringles, bottles of Gatorade and four sleepy runners and drove to a spot known as “The Cove” in Cape May, N.J. for the start of the 44-mile Cape 2 Gate Relay.
I had no idea what we were in for. I’ve never run in a long relay, and while I heard that Cape 2 Gate was a fun (and free) race, I knew how competitive runners would be.
The first thing I saw were the costumes: women dressed in tutus and tiaras, a group donning red and white stripped socks (they were Team Where’s Waldo), and pink bandanas and eye patches on two pirate themed teams. Then there were the vehicles: two Atlantic City Jitneys, a bunch of vans, and an RV. They made my mom’s Subaru look like a compact (which is what I usually drive).
The main concern was the wind. Our group’s two teams – team Tramps Like Us (baby we were born to run) and team The Matt Stanleys (that name would require a much longer explanation) – had stayed overnight at a shore house in Ocean City. The wind howled overnight, and it shook my car as I drove to the starting line.
The mood? Celebratory. And cold. Most of the runners were bundled up in multiple layers, but when I stepped out of the car, I felt that sun shining bright and opted for short sleeves with gloves instead.
Good thing, too.
I ran the first 10 miles, from Cape May up onto the Wildwood boardwalk right where it transitions from Wildwood into North Wildwood. For parts of the distance, the wind, which hit gusts of 49 miles per hour, was blocked by buildings. When blocked, I was running on a warm winter day, and I sweat. When not, it blew at my back and pushed me forward (most of the time – the turn off of Beach Ave. in Cape May toward the bridge in Wildwood put the wind in my face). Most runners started stripping off layers in the first two miles.
Our team was different than most: Tramps Like Us had five members, and The Matt Stanleys had just four. Most others had seven or more, and switched off at relatively short distances. Where they traded runners every one to three miles, we switched every eight to 10.
But we liked it this way – and not just because almost everyone on both teams is a marathon runner. Longer gaps in switching allowed us to explore. With gaps of about an hour between each runner, we could stop at the Wildwoods sign for pictures, or head to Ocean City Coffee Co. for hot chocolate and tea. We even stormed a friend’s office to say hello (and use her bathroom), and we ordered beers at Robert’s Place in Margate while waiting for our final runner to cross the finish line, which was at the door to the bar.
We had a great time, as I think the pictures show, and I hope Cape 2 Gate can stay free. With allegations that three teams cheated (two allegedly by switching off runners every half mile in spots where each runner must run at least one mile, and one allegedly by putting a runner on a bike to cross the Ocean City-Longport Bridge), I wonder how long they can go without having officials along the race route. Of course why anyone would cheat in a free race is beyond me.
Will Tramps Like Us and The Matt Stanleys be running the relay next year? I hope so. But I could do without the wind next time.