The Myth of Ocean City's Five-Mile Boardwalk
The legendary 2.5-mile Boardwalk is really only 2.45 miles long.
Runners love the Ocean City Boardwalk not only for the spectacular oceanfront views but because it helps them fly.
Many report personal-best times for the five-mile round trip or five-mile training runs that always seem to be a little quicker with the same amount of effort. There's something mysterious in the spring of the boards ... or the fresh air ... or the inspiring scenery.
But the GPS isn't quite as awed.
There's a reason why a five-mile run at an 8:00 per mile pace comes in well under 40 minutes—it's because the round trip is really only 4.9 miles. The Boardwalk is 2.45 miles long.
It's common knowledge and a well-advertised fact that the legendary Ocean City Boardwalk is 2.5 miles long—and to anybody but a runner and a mathematician interested in multiple decimal places, it is. But the reality is that the 2.5 miles is rounded up from 2.45.
Our eight-minute-miler should come in 48 seconds faster than 40 minutes for the round trip—statistically insignificant to a casual observer ... but an epic drop to the runner who thinks they've completed a full five miles.
"Your GPS is not lying," says Bill Moreland, the legendary Ocean City High School cross-country and track coach with an amazing daily running streak of his own. "The Boardwalk is a little short."
"When we (Runaway Athletic Club) measured the Boardwalk starting from 23rd street, it was almost exactly two miles to Fifth Street and then from there to St. James is the short half-mile. At one time, we had a mark on the road (at St. James) which was the true turn-around for the full five miles. If I remember correctly it was about the fourth house off the Boardwalk—that would not count the house right on the Boardwalk (that did not exist then). We measured it using what is called a Jones' counter, which attaches to a bike and is one of the USATF methods used to certify courses."
Moreland also suggested, "If anyone asks you, just use your Boardwalk time. What's a few seconds?"
Ocean City's Public Works Director Mike Rossbach says he's never measured the Boardwalk himself but that he's been told it’s short of 2½ miles long railing to railing.
Rossbach said the blue mile-marker signs at quarter-mile increments were removed last year when the new light poles were installed. Newer signs were ordered have not been installed yet.
He said painted mile markers have been sprayed on the boardwalk deck in the meantime.
"Keep in mind the pole signs are only as accurate as the spacing of the poles permits, so they are a little off from the deck markings," Rossbach says. "The deck marking will be refreshed each year as needed."
Here's our unofficial guide to Boardwalk mile markers (according to an iPhone GPS):
0.00: St. James Place (railing at start of Boardwalk)
0.25: 3rd Street sign
0.50: Past 5th Street (look to the right for second volleyball net, shuffleboard courts and high school football field)
0.75: Gillian’s Water Park
1.25: Surf Mall(former movie theater marquee is still there)
1.50: Halfway between 14th Street and the 14th Street Pier entrance
1.75: Brown sign that is historical marker for Sindia
2.00: Two houses shy of 19th Street
2.25: Three benches past 21st Street
2.45: 23rd Street (railing at end of Boardwalk)
0.00: 23rd Street (railing at start of Boardwalk)
0.25: Four houses past 21st Street
0.50: First house past empty oceanfront lot before 18th Street
0.75: 16th Street
1.00: Ike’s Famous Crabcakes
1.25: Air Circus
1.50: Manco & Manco Pizza
1.75: Dream Catchers
2.00: 5th Street
2.25: Delancey Place
2.45: St. James Place (railing at end of Boardwalk)