After two years worth of cancellations, the New Jersey Marathon is looking for a new host community.

The marathon that runs through eight Monmouth County communities starting in Oceanport and ending in Long Branch every spring canceled their spring 2020 and 2021 races due to the pandemic. As restrictions were lifted on gathering sizes and cases were decreasing, plans were made for the marathon for October.

But as the number of COVID cases started going up again, the decision was made to cancel.

"Long Branch shared that they weren't sure they would permit it in April 2022, which is our typical race month so we're faced with relaunching this race someplace else and we're looking for a host," event director Hilary Biggs told New Jersey 101.5.

Long Branch took the lead in managing security with other agencies.

Biggs said while the race is known as a "flat and fast" course at the Jersey Shore, it is open to any place in New Jersey including an urban or suburban setting that can accommodate the usual field of several thousand runners.

"We have a number of events and in total we have about 5,000 runners. We would need a venue that can accommodate that kind of number. Is there enough parking and is there enough access in and out of the city? Not many small towns in New Jersey can take that on so easily," Biggs said.

Where would the NJ Marathon go?

Biggs said that no particular community has been targeted by the marathon but Asbury Park is a leading contender. The race already runs through Asbury Park, and Biggs said she approached officials about hosting it in the fall before the race was canceled.

"If we were to go to a shore town like that it would require the least amount of change, which is appealing, but at this point we have time on our side so we can reinvent ourselves in a new town" Biggs said.

With only four months before a potential April, 2022 marathon, it would not be long enough for many runners to train, meaning a fall race is most likely, according to Biggs.

"We can go to September or October or we could plan for March/April of 2023, Biggs said. "We've always been an April race. I'd love to go to our traditional weekend but that seems far away.

Even with a later date it would appear the marathon's relationship with Long Branch is done as far as the marathon is concerned.

"Never say never but my feeling from them is that they are no longer interested in hosting the event," Biggs said.

Hesitation over big events

Towns may be shying away from hosting events that attract large numbers even though most are outdoors.

Long Branch Business Manager George Jackson told New Jersey 101.5 in a statement said the prospect of large crowds amid the pandemic remains a concern for the city.

"Since the onset of COVID-19, we have been reevaluating all special events, especially those that draw a large number of participants outside of our region," Jackson said.

The Sons of Ireland told NJ.com  they could not get permission for their Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1 but did get the green light from Long Branch to host at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa.

Sea Isle City's Polar Bear Plunge during President's Day weekend could also be in danger, according to a Press of Atlantic City report. The city has implemented a policy to no longer allow the organizers of private events to block off streets or use city facilities because of the strain on resources.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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