BELMAR — Every year thousands of runners take to the streets of Belmar to participate in the Belmar 5. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled races large and small, but organizers were determined to keep the Belmar 5 alive, as an individual run, tracked virtually.

Participants are encouraged to run in any location they choose and run or walk five miles.

“It’s not competitive, but it still gives you an opportunity to further your own fitness goals and stay connected with the community,” said race chairman Dan Napoliton.

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The event, which raises funds to aid the borough’s Goodwill Hose Company, began on Saturday and allows runners to set their own course. The change promotes social distancing while enabling participants to support the cause.

The virtual race week is expected to end on Saturday, Aug. 30. However, registration will remain open on RunSignUp through Aug. 30 for anyone who wishes to participate. Registration is $25.

“We just couldn’t put it on the way we did in the past, so we felt that a good way to raise money for, and support, the Goodwill Fire Co. was to hold a virtual,” Mr. Napoliton said.

The run is being held in conjunction with the Jersey Shore Running Club, and some 200 runners are expected to participate. Those who had pre-registered for the traditional Belmar 5 were also given the option of deferring their entry to the 2021 race.

In June, race organizers had issued a statement announcing that “because of circumstances surrounding the coronavirus crisis, the Belmar 5 Virtual Run is not a competitive event and will not be professionally timed. We will not be awarding trophies to event participants at this year’s race.”

“This year’s event is about furthering your own fitness goals while staying connected as a community. All net proceeds will benefit the Goodwill Hose Co. to help defray operational costs. Although we cannot physically be together like we had hoped, we can continue to provide meaningful assistance to our first responders during this unprecedented time.”

The announcement was signed by Mr. Napoliton and Eugene Cavanagh, president of the Goodwill Hose Co.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many races throughout the country to be canceled or converted into virtual runs. Even the New York Marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of runners, will take place virtually.

While runs are being shuttered, organizations that races like the Belmar 5 benefit are also feeling the loss.

“This is our way of being able to give back to them [the fire company] for providing their services,” Mr. Napoliton said. “This is what we do. We help local organizations by putting on these events, and I am honored to be part of that.”

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