By MADDY VITALE
Each year athletes head to Ocean City neighborhoods, the downtown business district, the beaches, and the Boardwalk for the OCNJ Half Marathon, 10 Mile Walk/Run and 5K to meet their personal goals, benefit scholarships and just have a great time.
But like so many other events that attract throngs of people to the resort, COVID-19 restrictions led to a decision to cancel the event.
Co-race director Carrie Merritt, an Ocean City Primary School teacher, took to her Facebook page Friday to make the announcement:
“We regret to inform our OCNJ Race Supporters, Runners and Community that the 2020 OCNJ Half Marathon and Race Events have been cancelled. We prepare to be back in 2021 better than ever! Keep running, keep training and stay positive. For more details (credits, to purchase OC Race gear, and early planning for 2021) please visit www.ocnj.us/race-events. #runOCNJ,” Merritt said in the post.
In a letter Merritt inserted into the post from the OCNJ Half Marathon race committee, it explained the race committee’s reasonings.
The letter read, “The race committee takes pride in making this a fun experience for our runners. We feel the race could not be replicated under the current restrictions. Additionally, we do not feel a virtual run captures the spirit of OCNJ Half Marathon.”
Merritt and co-race director, and her spouse, Lisa Rumer, who works for the city in the Aquatic & Fitness Center, also with dedicated race volunteers organize the event each year. This year would have been the 11th year of the run.
Merritt offered some positivity in an interview Friday,
“While we are extremely disappointed to cancel the 2020 OCNJ Half Marathon and race events, the OCNJ Race Committee will begin planning the 2021 OCNJ with even greater fervor and excitement,” Merritt said in an interview Friday. “We look forward to creating a 2021 OCNJ Race experience that highlights and showcases our city, our community, our schools and our spirit.”
She added, “We hope our runners and our race fans keep training and keep smiling every mile.” Rumer, who started the OCNJ Triathlon and Labor Day race 29 years ago, said of the OCNJ Half Marathon, “I have been committed to creating race events to motivate and challenge everyone’s inner athlete.”
Last year, the OCNJ Half Marathon benefited the Ocean City Recreation Scholarships and Programs. Ocean City High School Red Raiders handed runners medals as they crossed the finish line. The school’s cheerleaders waved pom poms in celebration of the runners’ achievements.
Participants have the option of the 13.1-mile half marathon, the 10-mile walk/run and the 5K race it allows for different skill levels to join in the event.
Since there are a few races to choose from, more runners have the ability to participate, Rumer noted in 2019.
The 2019 event had banner attendance from both the runners and walkers and spectators. People lined the Boardwalk, held signs, and cheered on the 1,800 participants.
Race volunteers passed out waters at locations throughout the run and Ocean City Police Department officers patrolled to make sure the athletes were safe.
Rumer called the 2019 event “great” in a 2019 interview.
“This was a great event to mark our tenth anniversary,” Rumer said. “It gives people a goal and the families come out to watch them. Some runners do the 5K and some do the longer distances. It is really inspiring to see.”