Attorney Jim Grimley came up with the idea for Cape to Gate because of work – sort of.
“I was in Avalon in February five years ago on a case, and brought my running gear so I could run right after. I ran for an hour and I didn’t see one car,” says Grimley, 41, who grew up in Ventnor lives in Absecon. “The street was wide open and perfect to run on. ‘This is great!’ I thought. Nobody’s down here.”
The beach roads, which are built to handle summer-sized car, runner, pedestrian and bike traffic, are deserted in the winter, so he grabbed four of his friends and made a plan: one of them would start running in Cape May. The rest would follow in a car and then switch off so they could relay on those wide open roads all the way to Margate, finishing at Roberts Place, a local bar, where they could then eat, drink and watch football.
It was successful enough that he sought out other runners to see if they’d want to run the same course next year, which is how the 44-mile Cape to Gate Relay was born. It’ll be run this Saturday, the same way Grimley and his friends did that first year, starting in Cape May and ending at the bar.
Except they won’t be alone. They’ll be with 30 other relay teams, 12 of which are all female teams.
“It’s grown exponentially,” he says. While the first two years had teams who were extremely competitive (the first year, two teams switched runners every quarter mile, which is not allowed anymore except for the first three miles and once teams cross from Ocean City into Long Port near the end of the race), he says now it’s more of a fun run with a lot of recreational runners who might not have ever run more than five miles at a time before.
It can stay a fun race, he says, because it’s free. There aren’t any officials, free t-shirts, or prizes. There are no medals, no clocks on the road. Everyone starts at the same time, and whoever gets to the bar first wins. There isn’t even a website for the race, just a Facebook group.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” he said – and it’s expanded. A group of athletes from The Animal Camp (TAC), a local ultra-marathon club, have even used it as a way to put on their own races, the TAC50 and the TAC100. For the TAC100, runners will run from Margate to Cape May on Friday, then go back along the same course as the Cape to Gate relay teams. The TAC50 runners will join the 100milers for the Saturday run back.
“It’s great for them because it’s really lonely out there by yourself,” says Grimley. “By mile 70, 80, 90, they’re dying and losing their edge, but when they see all these groups go by, patting them on the back, it gives them their fifth wind, and helps them finish.”
This year, I’ll be running with the all female relay team Tramps Like Us and live tweeting when I’m not actually running (the race starts at 8 a.m. and I’ll be doing the first 10 miles).
Come back here to see updates and photos, or follow me on twitter at @jerseyshorejen.