Race review: Ocean City “Island to Island” Half Marathon

This blog post has nothing to do with the Foreign Service, so if you stop reading here, I won’t blame you!

I’ve mentioned that Nate and I are runners.  Our fall/winter racing season is getting underway, and it made me think back to our spring races.  We ran three races in four weeks: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (awesome, planning to do it again if we win the lottery), George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler (also awesome), and the Ocean City “Island to Island” Half Marathon (not so awesome).

If you’re trying to find reviews of the Cherry Blossom or GW 10-milers, you’re in luck.  Tons of people have run these races and provided in-depth reviews, and all you have to do is google.  The same cannot be said for the OC half, which is why it’s getting its very own blog post. There were reviews of the race on the OC Tri Running Sports facebook page, but they got deleted.

So, if you’re thinking about running the Ocean City “Island to Island” Half Marathon, consider yourself forewarned. (The important bits are bolded and italicized.)

We arrived the night before, picked up our packets, and had a mediocre dinner.  Bright and early the next morning, we drove to the race finish area and boarded a bus to the starting area, as the race starts on Assateague and finishes on the boardwalk in Ocean City.  There was plenty of info on where to get the buses, when the buses ran until, how often they would leave, etc.  We got to Assateague with plenty of time to spare, and immediately headed for the porto-pots.  Thank god we got there early.

There were, and I’m not exaggerating, eight porto-pots for probably 1000+ runners.  If there is one thing to know about runners, it is that we all need to use the bathroom at least once, probably twice, before a race.  The porto-pot situation was a disaster. Granted, there were some real restrooms in the visitor’s center, but that line was like 300 people deep.

If you didn’t feel like standing in the monstrous lines for the porto-pots, you could also take care of business in the bushes/underbrush.  And that is what most people were doing.  There was a line for what ended up being the women’s area of the bushes!  Nothing makes you feel like a real runner more than squatting and peeing in a national park with hundreds of strangers.

The race was supposed to start at 7:00, so we dropped off our jackets at the gear check and headed for the starting corrals.  It was freezing cold, with a good breeze coming off the Atlantic.  I was counting down the minutes until the race was supposed to start because I just wanted to run and warm up.

So then what happened? Buses kept rolling in and dropping off more and more people. The race start was delayed for half an hour.  I was miserable.  I was also hating all the idiots that didn’t board the buses on time and delayed the start for everyone else that had used common sense and planned ahead.

Finally the race started.  Because of the long delay in starting, the road closures were done by the time we actually reached those areas.  This meant we had to run on road shoulders for probably 9 out of the 13 miles. Yay, car exhaust!  It was also really uncomfortable because the road was slanted, so it felt like my right leg was having to take longer steps than my left.

Crowd support was almost non-existent.  Although I do have to give a shout out to these two women that were cheering for us at like five different points in the race.  One had a cow bell and the other was banging a skillet with a spatula.  They were great; everyone else was terrible.  When we got to Ocean City, which was towards the end of the race, so crowd support really would have been nice, people on the boardwalk were just staring at us like we were bat-shit insane.

The course was also not particularly scenic.  The first bit heading out of Assateague was nice, but that only lasted maybe a mile, and then it was fun to run on the boardwalk, which was also maybe a mile.

Once we reached Ocean City, there was minimal direction for where to go.  At one point we reached a T-intersection and nearly came to a stop because we didn’t know if we should go right or left. No big sign with a big arrow or anything.  Just a policeman who was paying absolutely no attention. The woman running in front of us was super pissed off, swearing at anyone who looked like they deserved it (which was pretty much everyone).

I picked up the pace in the last mile and finished strong in 2:23:00.  Not exactly fast, but I was really proud and happy with the result of my first half marathon!  We got our finisher’s medals and complimentary pizza and beer, and sat by the ocean.  I had a fun time running with Nate, but I would not run this race again.

Wow, do I sound like a whiner.

If you’re looking to run 13.1 miles and you just want to log the mileage and get timed, and you don’t really care where it happens or what the experience is like, then this would be a good race for you.  The two other races we ran were like well-oiled machines: the race organizers knew what they were doing, were ready for thousands and thousands of people, and anticipated the runners’ needs.  In the OC half, none of that happened.

But hey, at least the pizza was good!

Pizza, sand, Hokas, and the ocean

Pizza, sand, Hokas, and the ocean


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