Ocean City's Half Marathon is no idle Rumer

The shore's not closed yet, at least not for the running crowd. This Sunday will be the sixth running of the OCNJ Half Marathon in Ocean City, N.J., an event weekend that now includes a 5k and a 10-mile walk.

It's not an entirely new event, though, says Lisa Rumer, who has also been putting on the town's Labor Day race for 25 years. In the mid 1970s, Ocean City's recreation department organized the Stenton Carey Half Marathon.

"They were few and far between back then," Rumer said of half marathons. "It wasn't that popular." The race didn't last long, but when she saw the resurgence of the half marathon distance, which is now the second most popular race distance in the country and had more than two million finishers last year, she decided to try again, and gave the race the OCNJ title.

In 2010, the first year of the race's new iteration, they had under 300 finishers in the half marathon. This year, they have over 1,200 registered for that distance and 350 total participants registered for the 5k and 10 mile walk.

"We have grown tremendously," Rumer said. "We think people really enjoy that Ocean City feel, and the boardwalk treats are a huge hit." Finishers are greeted with classic Ocean City goodies like Shriver's Salt Water Taffy, Johnson's Popcorn and pizza from two different boardwalk vendors. They're also supplied with Dot's donuts - important, says Rumer, since donuts were given out after the original version of the half marathon.

Four years ago, they added the 5k and 10-mile walk. The walk at that length is unusual, but fits this event. "We felt that there are so many walkers out there and a 5k is sometimes short," Rumer said.

This year's race will have the added bonus of being a Pope weekend getaway, which Rumer says accounts for more than a handful of their runners. Also, the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half marathon, which is the largest half marathon in Philadelphia, was bumped from its usual end of September spot to Halloween, leaving the OCNJ Half Marathon as a viable option for people who wanted to race 13.1 miles this time of year, either as their goal half marathon or as a tune up for a fall marathon.

Rumer says that the course has changed for 2015 to include new 9th Street Bridge, and more bayfront views "as something a little different," she said. The 10-mile walkers will see that part of the course as well.