As I run marathon after marathon this year, I experience some races I’d recommend, some I’d never run again even if I got paid to, and some that are nice, but not worth traveling to. I’m putting the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in the must-do category. For everything about it, and everything it stands for, I think this is a race that every marathoner should complete once.
I’m probably going to talk more about the race than my race. The marathon is a tribute to the Oklahoma City bombing victims from 1995, both those who perished and those who whose lives have been forever changed. I knew that going in, but the magnitude of it didn’t hit home until I actually got down there.
The race starts right around the corner from the memorial that’s in place now, which is where the federal building stood. Aside from Ground Zero in New York City, I don’t think there’s a spot in this country that saw a more devastating act. I’ve seen Ford Theater in Washington, where Lincoln was assassinated, and I’ve been to the Texas School Book Depository/grassy knoll in Dallas where Kennedy was assassinated. But the magnitude of the bombing and the number of deaths make it pretty surreal to be right there in Oklahoma City, participating in a race that’s solely dedicated as a tribute to the victims.
Prior to the race, they held a 168-second moment of silence, one second for each person who was killed. It seemed like it went on and on forever. That’s a lot of people if each one only got one second. Two people next to me were chatting about their sub-2 half-marathon goal during that moment of silence, as if that couldn’t wait for, say, two hours during the race. I totally wanted to smack them for being so disrespectful.
After that, they played the song (or maybe somebody sang it — I couldn’t tell) “One Moment In Time”. I’ll admit it, that song isn’t on my pre-race playlist. But on Sunday, it just seemed right. And then of course, the national anthem. I was right there overlooking the memorial at that point. It was chilling and I was completely inspired to run.
Normally, I think a lot about my family and my kids during a race, but today, I spent a lot of time thinking about the bombing victims. I saw a lot (hundreds) of people running with signs on their back stating who they were running in memory of. They told us at the beginning of the race that we’d see 168 names on the course and I did the math. If they spread them out over the course of a marathon, they’d be about 800 feet apart. One victim, every 800 feet, for an entire marathon.
To be honest, I don’t remember a ton about what I saw on the course because I felt pretty bad physically and I didn’t pay a ton of a attention. But from what I remember, it was a lot of running through a midwest city, which I always enjoy. Nice people, spirited aid stations, plus big homes and yards. We had one spot where we ran alongside a lake that had a pretty strong wind whipping us. The wind was a bummer, but the view was nice.
Normally in a marathon, there’s plenty of noise, whether it’s from spectators, surroundings, etc. At about mile 19 or 20, we hit a spot that I’ll never forget. I’m not sure if it was a cemetery (I don’t think it was, because I didn’t notice headstones), a park, a golf course (didn’t see bunkers or greens) or what, but it was big and spacious with huge lawn areas. It must have been a good mile or two through there. Anyways, on the light poles, they had banners and each one displayed the name of a victim.
Out of nowhere, it was dead silent. There wasn’t a peep from anybody. Silence that a baby could sleep through. For that stretch of a mile or two, the only noise I heard was the horn from a train that sounded like it was about two miles away. It was extremely serene, and I thought it was perfectly fitting while I was reading the names one after another. It was pretty sad knowing each person had a story and a life and surviving friends and family. I passed a few people wearing names on their back during this stretch and I wanted to pat them on the back.
We came out of that and people were pretty upbeat the rest of the way. The last few miles had quite a few spectators, playing music, having a good time and thanking us for running. I enjoyed being a part of Oklahoma City for three hours and change.
After the race, I took my finish-line picture at the memorial instead of at the finish line. I just thought it was appropriate. I almost got teary-eyed going in there. The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was a great race, a great tribute. The course seemed nice, the aid stations were constant and well-staffed with friendly volunteers and the post-race spread was great. They did a great job handling 22,000 participants. All-in-all, a great race, one every marathon runner should run at least once.
Anyways, I’ll talk briefly about my running. I felt terrible physically Saturday night after a miserable race in Nashville earlier in the day. I felt a little better Sunday morning, but doubles are tough, no question. I felt OK for the first 7 miles and was actually running pretty well, but then I started to feel nauseous for about 5 miles. That passed, but then I just started to feel pretty rough physically.
I burned worse than normal in my quads and when that wind was getting us, I lost a lot of fight. I know I didn’t push hard enough today, because my average heart rate was only 160, but I’m just exhausted right now. I’ve been away from home for 10 of the past 17 nights, and I’ve averaged maybe 6 hours of sleep a night max in the past three weeks, and I just completed 6 marathons in 16 days (and I won’t even get into the travel). I think I just ran out of gas today.
Final time, 3:17:42. I don’t really care about the time much one way or the other. It’s not great, but it’s not something I’ll lose sleep over. It’s a 3:17, and I’m now 22 down, 38 to go.
Me at the memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing victims. I don’t know the actual name of the memorial, but it’s a pretty chilling place. It was tough to force a smile in there.
Me and Operation Jack super supporter Ally Phillips after the race. This was her fourth marathon, I think, and her first was just five months ago. I think she caught the bug!
They have a chair for each victim there. I’m guessing one of this person’s survivors ran the race for them on Sunday.