Scenes From the One and Only
Sand's Department Store 'Marathon'


When looking back to the glorious days of the 1970s running boom, I can't help but think of all the races that no longer exist. These include some outstanding events that are truly missed, such as the Amish Country Half-Marathon, the Wilkes-Barre 20K, the Jim Thorpe Memorial Day 10K, and the Fenton Carey Half-Marathon.

Also included are some incredibly bush events that are just as well gone and forgotten. However, there is one that was so monumentally bad that it will be forever impossible to forget. If nothing else, recalling it here should serve as a guide to would-be race directors on how not to do things.

It was the Summer of 1978 and the running boom was going strong. It seemed as if everyone was looking for a way to cash in on the sport's sudden popularity. Which brings us to the Sand's Department Store Marathon, which was neither a marathon, nor sponsored by a department store.

Sand's "Department Store" was located in Sea Isle City, NJ, and could best be described as a small five- and ten-cent store. The "Marathon" was a nominal 3-mile distance that turned out to be more like 2.5 miles. The route was unmarked and unpatrolled so it was not surprising that a few of the entrants went astray.

When registering for the race at Sand's "Department Store," we were told that T-shirts would be given out after the race. When we asked Mr. Sand if we could use the toilet facilities, we were told that this was not possible because his insurance would not allow it. About 200 runners showed up for the "Marathon." Did this man think that none of them would need to "tinkle" before competing? Fortunately, the bar next door did not have the same restriction.

Things began to get ugly after the "marathon." First, we learned that the T-shirts were actually, and I am not making this up, Fruit of the Loom undershirts that were dyed brown. Next, we learned that only 20 of them were available. Mr. Sand assured us that he would get (read this as dye) some more for us to pick up later, during our next visit to the "department store." I tried to do this several times during the ensuing months, not surprisingly without success.

The crowd of 200 became even more agitated when it was learned that, except for the overall winner who got a small trophy to enjoy, there were no times, no order of finish, no age groups, and no awards. Pleased to report that neither was there a next time for the Sand's Department Store Marathon.