By Donald Wittkowski
Steve Hallman was completely alone as he approached the finish line Sunday morning in the Ocean City Half Marathon. So alone, he could have crawled the last quarter mile and probably still have won the race.
The 29-year-old union plumber from Langhorne, Pa., led the 13.1-mile race from start to finish, breezing in a winning time of 1 hour, 13 minutes and 41 seconds. The second-place runner was a full 2 minutes behind him.
His competitors might not want to hear this, but Hallman was simply using the Ocean City Half Marathon as a tune-up for another race, the Philadelphia Marathon in November.
“I felt strong. I was trying to pace myself to train for the marathon,” he said of his race strategy. “I felt pretty strong the entire way, except for the last five miles when the wind was against me.”
Hallman also won the Ocean City Half Marathon two years ago. He skipped it in 2016 for another race, but came back this year with a vengeance.
Hallman’s dominating performance was the highlight of a day of racing that attracted a total of 1,780 runners for their choice of a half marathon, a 10-miler or a 5K. The half marathon, the headline race, had about 1,200 competitors.
Sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s at the 8:30 a.m. start time for all three races mimicked a summer day.
Hallman said he struggled with the humidity at times, although he enjoyed the race’s fast, flat surface, including the Boardwalk. He is no stranger to Ocean City, giving him a bit of a home-field advantage.
“I come down here a lot on vacations,” Hallman said.
Now in its eighth year, the half marathon traces a scenic route through town, taking runners along the Boardwalk, past the ocean and into some of the upscale neighborhoods of the Gardens section.
“It’s a super-beautiful course. The views of Ocean City are great,” said Maureen Kelly, a race coordinator.
“Basically, you see the whole island,” added John Connahan, another race coordinator.
During its first year, the race attracted just 82 competitors, but has grown steadily since then, Connahan said.
Kelly explained that the race’s relatively small size appeals to runners who don’t want to get overwhelmed by huge crowds. She noted, for instance, that major races in Philadelphia attract thousands of competitors.
Sunday’s race took on a small-town, festive atmosphere. The cheerleaders from Ocean City High School and their mascot gave the runners a rousing start. Spectators shouted words of encouragement and exchanged high-fives with some of the runners as they passed by the crowds lining the Boardwalk.
Family members of Alyssa Greenfield, 28, of Princeton, a competitor in the half marathon, held up comical, handwritten signs alluding to some of Ocean City’s famous Boardwalk foods. One sign urged her to run for pizza, while another implored, “For fudge sake, don’t stop.”
Greenfield, a content manager for a jobs website in New York City, began a rigorous training schedule to prepare for her first half marathon, said her husband, Alex Greenfield.
“About six months ago, she had trouble doing even a mile,” he said. “Then, she began adding about a mile per week. She was following a running app, but that was too slow for her. She found the time to train. She wanted to kick some butt.”
Greenfield finished 481st out of 591 female runners, recording a time of 2:56:41.
Results for all three races are available by visiting www.runtheday.com.