OCEAN CITY – The 6th Annual Ocean City Half-Marathon and 5K races return to the resort area tomorrow, and based on mid-week sign-up totals, it will be a lot more crowded along the course that begins at the Inlet, crosses the Route 50 bridge into West Ocean City and ends at Assateague.
According to race organizer and promoter Chris Klebe, of OC Tri-Running Sports, the field had already doubled by Tuesday with well over 1,100 runners signed up and that number could swell even higher as potential participants wait until the last minute to make their decision after checking the forecast and other factors. By comparison, the event drew a total of 541 competitors, including 409 for the half-marathon and another 132 for the 5K race.
“We’ve already doubled last year with a few days to go,” Klebe said on Tuesday, pointing out the change in the format two years ago from a full marathon to a half marathon. “We knew we had to go backward before we went forward, and now this event is really taking off.”
For the first three years, the event included a full marathon, a half-marathon and a 5K race along with other walker-friendly and kid-friendly activities, but logistical problems with the course, particularly continued work on the Harry Kelley Memorial Bridge, forced race organizers to scale it back to a half-marathon three years ago.
During the first half-marathon two years ago, the early leg of the race was hampered by a major rehabilitation project on the bridge, which closed one half of the span to traffic. Last year, State Highway crews were busy finishing the other half of the bridge when the race was run.
“For the first time in two years, we don’t have any issues with the bridge to deal with,” said Klebe. “The course is clear and we don’t anticipate any major problems.”
Klebe said this week there has been some interest in restoring the annual race each April to a full marathon, but given the success of the half-marathon format, with its numbers doubling this year, organizers are reluctant to flirt with success.
“We’ve had a few emails about bringing back the full marathon, but this event keeps growing and growing and has become very popular,” he said.
At the conclusion of the races, a post race party and awards ceremony will be held at the Francis Scott Key Family Resort on Route 50, across from the Ocean City Factory Outlets, the main sponsor for the event.