Sunny skies and harsh winds marked the running of the 2nd Annual Belmar Celtic Chase on Saturday, March 5.
The one-mile fun run is one of a number of events that the borough of Belmar has planned around their annual
"We want to build a weekend," Mary Brabazon of the Belmar Tourism Commission, who orchestrated the race, said. "It's a family event."
Approximately 135 runners dressed in their finest green clothing lined up on the sand in front of Belmar's Taylor Pavilion and darted head first into a straight north wind blowing in excess of 20 mph.
Harriers ran south in the sand to 8th Avenue, then turned around and ran north with the wind at their backs to the Belmar Fishing Pier where they then transitioned onto the boardwalk and headed south down the final straight away back to Taylor Pavilion.
A Belmar resident brought home the win, but the race ended up belonging to Monroe Township High School.
Joe Rooney, 24, of Belmar, closed the race in a blistering 6:04, eclipsing last year's winning time of 7:17.
Rooney, who coaches at Monroe, had only one word to describe the race after his victory.
"Windy," he said.
On the women's side, one of Rooney's student athletes also brought home a victory well under the previous year's time.
Courtney Klecha, a sophomore at Monroe Township High School, ran an impressive 7:55. Last year's winning time was 8:34.
Klecha recently ended a successful indoor track and field season with a first place finish in the 1,600-meter run at the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 Championships.
"It was definitely a challenge," Klecha said, noting that the combination of wind and running on sand proved difficult.
Further back in the pack, a showdown between local elected officials came down to the wire.
Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty and Lake Como Council President Brian Wilton finished in 23rd and 24th, respectively.
"It was a little tough," Wilton said of the race course and prevailing conditions.
"It's the second year we're doing it and it's a great tie-in with the rest of the weekend," Doherty said. "It's growing bigger every year."
Phil Hinck and the Jersey Shore Runner's Club were on hand to operate the timing and provide post race water and food for runners.
"It's just going to get bigger and bigger," Hinck said of the event.
Another who volunteered time to ensure the success of the event was Kevin Westly, "The Irish DJ," who provided appropriate background by Irish and Celtic music throughout the day.
Participation in the event grew by 50 percent from the previous year and Brabazon hopes this is a trend that will continue.
"I can't wait for next year," she said.