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Year After Terror Blast, Military Race Returns to Jersey Shore

The finish line of the Semper Five race
The finish line of the Semper Five race (Townsquare Media NNJ)

SEASIDE HEIGHTS — There was never any doubt the Semper Five road 5K, interrupted last September by an explosion from a bomb left in a trash can along the route, would return.

“We made our decision immediately and we wanted to come back bigger and strong,” race director Frank Costello told WPG’s sister station, New Jersey 101.5. “And the way the numbers are going so far this year, it looks like there’s going to be a lot more people.”

Costello said applications for the 2017 race scheduled for Sept. 16 are up by 10 percent.

Trash can where a pipe bomb went off in Seaside Park
Trash can where a pipe bomb went off in Seaside Park (Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office)

The bomb was the first of several explosives to detonate in New Jersey and Manhattan that weekend.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, of Elizabeth was arrested following a standoff with police in Linden. He is facing federal terrorism charges in both states.

There were no injuries in Seaside Park. The 2016 race was canceled and runners were invited to join the Tunnel to Towers race in Manhattan.

Costello believes that everyone was shocked that a small community was a target for terrorism.

“I think because it’s a military event they saw that and went after it. It was just a total shock and we thank God one was injured. It could have been pretty bad if everything went according to the terrorist’s plans.”

Three quarters of the applications for this year’s race are from outside Ocean County, including 14 percent from out of state, which Costello said is unusual. Most races attract about 5 percent from beyond their home county.

The larger field means the race will be run from south to north because the boardwalk is wider in Seaside Park where the race will now start.

“The boardwalk in Seaside Park is 16 feet wide.That’s too narrow for the numbers we have now. Seaside Heights, which is only a couple blocks away, is 64 feet wide,” Costello said.

The race benefits the MARSOC Foundation, a charity that benefits the special ops units of the Marines. “Their injuries are so horrific because they’re the first ones in when something goes wrong,” Costello said.

Other additions to this year’s race include a prayer breakfast for the day before the event.  The first 1,000 runners to register for the race will also receive two free tickets to their choice of eight Philadelphia Phillies games as the team signs on as a new sponsor of the race.

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