I am going to be honest here, I did not enjoy this marathon. Candidly, I cannot recommend it to anyone who is looking to run a marathon in Rhode Island.
Here’s how it came to be that I chose Ocean’s Run Marathon: I did not need to make this a family trip, as my family goes to Newport every summer. We LOVE Newport and I can suggest plenty of summer time activities that are great for the whole family. But since the kids go every summer, they had no interest in missing a weekend of their own sports to watch me run in a town they had already explored.
I could have signed up for the Providence Marathon, but I did not want to go to Providence by myself for the weekend. What I wanted to do was to bring my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law with me and to go to Newport, as my mother-in-law had always wanted to see the Newport mansions.
And yet, I did not want to run the Newport Marathon. I had read some negative reviews about political disputes and changes in management; there seemed to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Newport Marathon when I was making decisions about which marathon to run and I didn’t want any part of that.
Ocean’s Run, however, is only about an hour from Newport and although there was not a lot of information on its website, it had been in existence for about a decade and seemed okay. I figured that we could have a ladies’ weekend in Newport and I could just pop over and do the marathon. With my mom and in-laws onboard, I rented a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at Oceancliff in Newport using my RCI points and away we went.
The weather was absolutely not the race director’s fault, quite clearly. March happened to be a horrific month for New England’s weather and Rhode Island got hit hard in the days before the marathon. Bridges were shut down because the winds were too dangerous and had blown over a tractor-trailer truck. When we pulled into Newport, we stopped to watch waves turn into walls of water as they collided with the wind and the water was pushed skyward. Seagulls started to take flight and could not move forward, instead using all of their energy just to hover in place and not be swept backwards. I was not looking forward to exposing myself to those elements for almost four hours.
Moreover, as you might expect, the flooding was extreme. I completely understand the desire to keep the race on track, really, I do. But by the afternoon on the day before the marathon we still did not have an answer as to whether we were running the next day and if so, whether we were going to run on the original course or one that avoided the flooding. I think it is interesting that on the marathon’s Facebook page, the administrators have since deleted all of the posts related to their communications and decision-making about whether the race was going forward in 2018. Perhaps this is because none of that chatter was very positive. Nonetheless, in the late afternoon/early evening we finally got word that we would be running the next morning, and on the same route as originally planned.
It was wet, raw, and windy on the morning of the race. Again, none of that was anything that the race director could control. But here’s the thing – the race director wasn’t even there that morning and there were no efforts at meaningful communication regarding the conditions on the course. People were buzzing around at the start, disorganized and unable to answer questions, and I overheard volunteers telling people that the director wasn’t going to be there and so they could not find out the answers. This was frustrating.
The flooded course was also really frustrating. We had to run through the same flooded area four times even though we could have been rerouted to a road that ran parallel to the flooded route and was dry. The emcee mentioned that they paid a lot of money to have the course certified and so were reluctant to change it. Again, I understand that was a tough decision, but sometimes weather requires flexibility. The flooding went up to the middle of my calf, soaking my shoes four miles into the run.
Here are some positives: The course is flat and if the weather was nice, it would have been pretty. I also appreciated the ability to pick up my bib and shirt on the morning of the race. Also, if your family wants to spend four hours at the beach, they can park right at Misquamicut Beach, where mine did. This is actually pretty convenient, as you will see them at the start, a few miles in when you cross back by the start, at the half way point, a few miles later as you cross by the start again, and at the end.
All of this crossing back and forth across the start line is because the race starts and ends in the same place and is comprised of two loops of the half marathon course. For me, this is a negative. Double loop marathons are convenient for the race organizers and spectators, but, personally, I find them mentally difficult. All the half marathoners get to stop, right in front of you, but you get to do it all again (and nothing is new the second time around, there are just fewer people around you). It’s also tough because you have to make more of an effort to run your own race, at your own pace. It’s easy to get caught up with the speed of the half-marathoners if the races are run at the same time, which is the way it is done at Ocean’s Run. Add it all together and about four miles or so into the second half, my poor pacing and the environmental conditions caught up with me and I started to tank. I had a really tough time motivating myself to keep moving and running.
Notably, it is nearing late January as I write this and the website for Ocean’s Run says that they will be holding the race again this year, on March 3, 2019. And yet, there is no course map and all of the substantive information, like the Athlete Guide, is still from 2018.
Long story short, one gets the feeling that the race organizers are operating on auto-pilot. If you are an experienced marathoner (or are, in general, a very low-maintenance individual), then this race will be just fine. You have to go into it with low expectations and just treat it like one of your long runs.
On a brighter note, the Newport mansions were stunningly opulent and I had a great time with my family! We love Newport and I’m going to try out the Newport marathon at some point, now that things seem to have settled down.
Happy running, and if you had a positive experience with any RI marathon in particular, please share!
“Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.” — Dean Karnazes