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On Your Mark! Volunteers Prep For Saturday's 5K in Hazlet

Middle Road will be closed on Saturday morning between the Veteran's Park and Airport Plaza. The race is expected to attract nearly 300 runners.

Volunteers gathered in the Cullen Center at the Hazlet Recreation Complex on Thursday filling bags with T-shirts, water bottles, and other gifts as they prepared for the Hazlet 5K road race on Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Joe Marques, an avid runner, started organizing the race in 2010. He is hoping the weather will be on his side this year. 

“Last year we had the race the weekend the hurricane hit, so we had to postpone it,” Marques said. “We rescheduled it for the last Sunday in October --which was a day after we had a snowstorm.”

Luckily Saturday’s weather is forecasted to be ideal: sunny with a high of 80 degrees.

Marques said that 140 runners have already registered for Saturday’s race, and he expects 140 more to register the morning of the race.

“Running is an enormous sport,” Marques said. “It’s the only local road race around on the last Saturday of August, so we’re expecting a big turnout.”

Marques suggested runners arrive early for registration at 7 a.m. in the Hazlet Swim and Tennis Club parking lot. The cost is $30. The top three male and female runners overall will receive medals, as will the top three male and females in each age group.

The course begins at and extends down Middle Road, which will be closed from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m., and back to Veterans Park. There are two one-mile straightaways and the course is mostly flat, according to Marques

Fifty percent of all proceeds will go to the non-profit local organization R.A.I.N.E. (Reaching All In Need Everyday), whose mission is to help children who are going through difficult times in their lives.

“Having this race is huge for us because it will help us raise money throughout the year,” said Ralph Seber, R.A.I.N.E. Board of Trustees member.

Patti Dickens, founder of R.A.I.N.E., said her organization helped 1,500 children around Christmastime last year.

“We try and give these children everything we possibly can,” Dickens said. “We give them clothes, coats, socks, toys, gift cards.  What I love most is everyone is part of it. I had a little boy come up to me and tell me his friends have been helped by us. 

Neither Dickens nor Marques could say how much they have raised so far, but several local businesses are sponsoring the race and donating money to R.A.I.N.E. and providing gifts for the runners.

ProCare, a physical therapy center, has made a donation and is sending a team of 20 runners into the race. They willl have a small group lead runners in stretches before the race.

They also provided a coupon for an Anti-Gravity Treadmill, a state-of-the-art treadmill designed for runners recovering from muscle or knee injuries which brings their weight down to zero.

is another sponsor that will have a group of people leading runners in warm-ups before the race.

Any businesses that provided donations will have banners hanging on the day of the race. 

Volunteers for the race range from all over the community, from local residents to members of the Raritan High School football team who handed out flyers to those who live on Middle Road where the race will take place.

“I could never have enough volunteers,” Marques said. “I would love to have more the day of the race. I’d rather have too many volunteers where some may be do nothing, rather than three people doing everything. It’s a good cause and a great race." 

Marques views a bright future for the race, which will eventually belong to the Hazlet Recreation Commission, and has some ideas for next year.

“One thing I would love to do next year is have an family-oriented event the night before the race, where everyone can register, pick up their gift bag, and even have a small race for the little kids,” Marques said.

“The race is gaining popularity and I think next year we can have about 500 runners in it,” he said. 

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