SEASIDE HEIGHTS – Around 2,000 runners participated in the Sept. 16 Semper Five Run, a 5 kilometer race to benefit a U.S. Marine Corps charity which saw tremendous security precautions and a change of locale in the wake of last year’s terrorist bombing incident which caused its cancellation.
That Sept. 17, 2016 incident involved a pipe bomb which exploded in a trash container in Seaside Park along the course route. Later that day, a homemade pressure cooker bomb went off in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. A second pressure cooker bomb was found four blocks away.
Between September 17 and Sept.19, 2016, three bombs exploded and several unexploded ones were found in the New York metropolitan area. Late on Sept. 18, multiple bombs were discovered at the train station in Elizabeth. One of these bombs detonated early the next day.
The bombings left 31 people wounded, but no fatalities or life-threatening injuries were reported. On September 19, the sole suspect—Ahmad Khan Rahimi, of Elizabeth—was captured, following a shootout with police in neighboring Linden. Rahimi was not part of a terrorist group, but his actions were believed to have been influenced by the extremist Islamic ideology espoused by al-Qaeda.
The Semper Five website featured the following post: “The motto of the Marine Raiders is “Spiritus Invictus” meaning Unconquerable Spirit. It is with this unyielding fortitude that the 4th Annual Seaside Semper Five returns following last year’s terrorist bombing. Undeterred and committed to serving those who serve our country, this year’s race will be bigger and better than ever. The new course in Seaside Heights has been designed to accommodate the significantly greater anticipated number of runners.”
This year’s event saw increased security personnel in the form of Seaside Heights police, member of the Ocean County Sheriff’ Department, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, NJ State Police and Ocean County Sheriff’s Department K9 Units, Office of Homeland Security Division of the New Jersey State Police, FBI, NJ State Police Marines and NJ State Police Aviation Drone officers.
“It is incredible how much security we have here on land, sea and air,” Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd said prior to the start of the race.
Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz said that the event went without a hitch. “It was excellent. There were approximately 2,000 runners and security was at its highest level. We like hosting this event as we support the mission of the event. We are not afraid of terrorists and we will not let them stop us.”
The route to the 5-mile approximately 27-minute course ran in an “L” formation from Dupont Avenue to Heiring Avenue and back again according to one Ocean County Sheriff ‘s Department officer. The course included about nine blocks of the borough and was carefully monitored by police that observed the activity from the air in the form of helicopters and drones, officers on the beach and at various points along the course.
The race started at 9 am but the borough was also hosting another event, the annual “Barbeque At Sea” which was located off the boardwalk. That event was also subject to a security check according to a member of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department.
Jen Allen, Mount Holly was among the nearly 2,000 runners who came out for the activity. This marked her first time running in the Semper Five Run.
“This was a great race and it went very well. I knew it would be safe and I really had no concerns. We weren’t given the route until just before it started. I’ve been running at events like this before and I really enjoyed this experience. I don’t know my time yet but I know I didn’t win a medal but it was a good time,” Allen said.
Randy Faiges, Bayville, was aware of his time and rating. He took second place. This marked his first year running in the Semper Five. The 26-year-old runner said he often runs in area events like this and was pleased how it was coordinated.
“I think it went very well and while I was aware of what happened last year I felt there was a so much security around that I’d be safe. I saw cops everywhere throughout the run. It was pretty crowded on the boardwalk as we ran and there were also a lot of runners in the event,” Faiges said.
The big winner of the day was Brick resident Dianne DeOlivera whose fast pace is well known in runner circles. “It didn’t matter if I won or lost it really is about the cause,” she said prior to the event. DeOlivera came in first place. She had been present at last year’s event.
Walter Hrycenko, Toms River was involved in the coordination of the event. He was busy assisting with registration. “We had just a little under 2,000 runners and it went very good. We had a great amount of cooperation with the town, county and they really helped us out.”
Hrycenko added that planning of the event involved a 20-member committee headed by Tom Costello. He said the planning involved several meetings held throughout the year where security concerns and other logistics were addressed. He said this marked the fourth year for the event which benefits the MARSOC Foundation which supports U.S. Marines who have been injured and assists families of Marines.
U.S. Marine Colonel Nick Vavich of the command office of the Marine Support Group at MARSOC was present at the event and was very pleased with the outcome.
“My overall feeling is amazement at the support of the community and the level of genuine patriotism and community spirit. It was not just flag waving but a real sense of care for one’s neighbors and their support,” Vavich said.
“I met with many veterans who served in Vietnam and World War II today,” Vavich said as he was periodically stopped by people stopping to thank him for his service to the nation and shaking his hand. “It really was a great day.”