OCEAN CITY – It’s now becoming crunch time for those looking to squeeze in a little more training before lacing up and tackling the leg-churning 3rd Annual Ocean City Factory Outlets Marathon.
Taking place on April 7, the event plays host to hundreds of runners and fitness aficionados from not only the United States, but from all parts of the globe as well including the Bahamas, Ecuador, Bermuda and Canada. Last year’s marathon tested the endurance of nearly 1,000 runners and pre-registration for this year is looking to boast those same numbers, maybe more.
According to Mark Shaw, event manager for Extreme Dream Events, the company putting on the event, this year’s marathon will be similar to previous years with a full marathon, a half marathon and a 5k run.
Both the full marathon and half marathon will begin at 7 a.m. at the Inlet parking lot and will work their way over the Route 50 Bridge. From there, the route winds through West Ocean City before finding its way down to Assateague Island. It is here the half marathon ends and the full marathon continues, tracing a path along Route 611 and ending on Sunset Avenue. As for the 5K, it’s scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and will start at the Park & Ride parking lot.
Following the events, Shaw said there will be a post race awards party at the Ocean City Factory Outlets where medals will be given to all those who finish as well as cash rewards to the top two male and female runners. Awards will also be given to the top three runners in each age group.
It was six years ago when the idea of the marathon was born and there were three years of jumping through hoops and working out kinks before it was ready, Shaw said. Planning for each marathon begins a year in advance with advertising taking place all over the country in all types of mediums.
One of the most important parts of the planning is deciding the course, a crucial development for a qualifier event.
“We consider safety as the number one thing,” Shaw said, “After that it is the scenic part of the course followed by the logistics of where you can set up water and first aid stations.”
Shaw said the event has certainly grown over the years and attracts runners of all ages. The big attraction of the event is the fact that it is run on mostly flat ground, something that is critical for an event that stands as a qualifier for a larger, more well-known attraction, the Boston Marathon.
“There’s people qualifying for the Olympics and some doing it just for fun,” he said. “They are always looking for a fast course. If the wind is right, people will set personal records.”
With an event of this size and reputation, it’s sure to bring thousands more to the beach resort during its shoulder season.
“Each runner brings about two to three people with them making that total about four- to five-thousand people that wouldn’t have been in Ocean City otherwise,” Shaw said. “These people can end up being future clientele to the area or future homeowners and business owners.”
In the past, the marathon’s title sponsor was Royal Plus, a sponsorship that was critical to the event. However, this year toward the end of the summer, the company pulled out, leaving a large void to fill. Without a title sponsor, Shaw set out to find one that could keep the marathon on its feet.
“I asked the Ocean City Factory Outlets, who was the award sponsor for the last two years and already in the loop, to be the title sponsor for this year and they stepped right up,” he said. “They believe in the event and it’s getting better and better.”
Renee Kelly, director of marketing and general manager for the Ocean City Factory Outlets, said Shaw approached her back in October.
“He told me the old sponsor had dropped out and asked me if we wanted to step up,” she said. “Without missing a beat, I said absolutely.”
Kelly said she believes the marathon is a great local event that is of high caliber and agrees with Shaw that it brings a lot of people to the community that would not normally have selected Ocean City as an area to visit.
“The marathon itself advertises our community and healthy sports and leisure tourism through numerous magazines,” she adds. “It’s only going to grow from here.”
Being the title sponsor also comes with its own benefits and Kelly admits it’s a good way to bring more people to the Ocean City Factory Outlets and keep the name out there.
“Lots of people don’t even know there are retail outlets outside of Ocean City,” she said. “There is more to O.C. than the beach and the boardwalk.”
Shaw said the relationship between the two groups is looking great so far and added that if the Ocean City Factory Outlets wants to continue to do it then Shaw will continue having them.
“I would love to continue working with Extreme Dream Events,” Kelly said. “It’s good for all of Ocean City and I think it will continue to grow.”
As for the future of the event, Shaw said he would love to see it grow to 10,000 people one day.
“A Disney-style production is what I’d like to see,” he said with a laugh. “Other resort areas have that and there is no reason we can’t have that.”