Annual Road Race Returns Saturday

OCEAN CITY – Despite a sluggish economy that has made finding sponsors difficult and the obstacle the ongoing work on the Route 50 Bridge creates, the 2009 Ocean City Half-Marathon is shaping up to be a huge success with twice as many runners registered for the race compared to last year’s event.

For three years, OC Tri-Running Sports, formerly Extreme Dream Events, produced an annual marathon in Ocean City each April, attracting hundreds of racers from all over the country for a full marathon, half marathon and 5K race. Last year, however, uncertainties about work on the Route 50 bridge, which was closed for a month in January and February, race organizers scrapped the full marathon and devoted their efforts to a less cumbersome half-marathon and 5K race.

This year, OC Tri-Running Sports will again host the annual half-marathon and 5K race next Saturday, April 18, and despite economic uncertainties tempering sponsorship dollars and the second-phase of the work on the bridge, everything points to an extremely successful event next Saturday.

“We’re very excited about how this is going thus far,” said OC Tri-Running Sports spokesman Charlie McClure this week. “In this economy, it was a little difficult finding sponsors willing to commit and our budget has been reduced by about 10 to 15 percent, but the interest in the race from a participant standpoint has been outstanding. Last year, we had about 250 racers and this year, we have about 500 signed up already.”

McClure said concerns about the ongoing work on the Harry Kelley Bridge, which forced organizers to scale back the event last year, have not been a problem this year.

“We’ve worked with the Ocean City Police Department and State Highway officials and everything is a go in terms of getting across the bridge,” he said. “We don’t anticipate any problems with that at all.”

The half-marathon course starts at the Ocean City Inlet and moves up the Boardwalk to North Division Street where runners will turn left and cross the bridge. From there, racers will turn into the Park and Ride and connect to Old Bridge Rd., which will take them to Route 611.

The course continues down Route 611 with loops through the Whispering Woods neighborhood and then another loop around Sinepuxent and Lewis Roads before coming out again the scenic section of Route 611 down to Assateague Island, where the finish line will be located. The 5K race will take place entirely along the Boardwalk in Ocean City.

Major sponsors for the half-marathon this year include the Ocean City Factory Outlets again, where pre-race activities including packet pick-ups will be held. Another major sponsor is the Francis Scott Key Family Resort, which will host the post-race party, along with Live Long Fitness.