The OKC Memorial Marathon was an amazing experiences for me, it was my first big race, my first half marathon, and the end of a long journey of training and self discovery. I had spent the last three months physically preparing myself to run the half marathon, but I wasn’t prepared for everything else about the event. There was a power and emotion that I had not expected, but was as rewarding as finishing the race itself! I wish I had the writing skills to properly convey all of this, but I’m going to do the best I can!
The day started very early, I was up at 4:00am, and several cups of coffee later, I was even alert! Thankfully, I had prepared most of my gear the night before, even still I almost left without my bib, and did leave without eating. I made the mistake of parking well over a mile from the finish line, which was not so bad in the morning, but the walk back to the car later hurt worse than any part of the race!
I was really impressed with how well-organized the race was, it was very easy to find the gear check and then find my corral. I didn’t actually know what a corral was prior to that morning, one of the many things I learned that day. I lined up just behind the 10:30 pace section, which ended up matching my actual finish pace of 10:25 pretty closely. I couldn’t see where the pack of runners started or ended from where I was standing, being in a group of 27,000 runners is really amazing!
One of the most memorable moments of the day, was the 168 second moment of silence that took place before the race start. I’m usually a little jaded about that sort of thing, but being in downtown Oklahoma City with 30,000+ people and only being able to hear birds chirping, was a truly moving experience. The entire event is a great tribute to the 168 people who lost their lives in the OKC bombing, that memory really does fill the race and give it a real sense of purpose.
A few minutes later the race started, it was one of the most exciting and adrenaline filled moments that I can remember, I felt like I could run a whole marathon in record speed! It’s probably for the best that I was caught in a huge pack of runners for the first few miles, and could not run very fast, otherwise I may have really over done it in the beginning.
The first few miles may have been slow, but the excitement from my fellow runners and the crowd made it feel like it was so much faster. There was a palpable sense of energy that permeated the course, it’s really hard to describe just how that felt, but I won’t forget it!
Miles three through six went smoothly, the time flew by, time has never passed so quickly for me during a run, and I was actually going slower than usual! A little after mile six, I started to feel really hungry, mercifully the aid stations had gels and pretzels, they were a life saver!
Speaking of aid stations, this is a good time to mention the absolutely amazing volunteers that were part of the race. The volunteers working the aid stations were all great, helpful, and encouraging people! They spent hours standing out in the cold and sporadic rain, at least we were able to keep warm by running!
The crowds were also great, from signs, to cheers, to costumes, to re-enactments of Pac-Man, to simple words of encouragement, I really appreciated it all! It’s amazing how much motivation that you can draw from the cheers and simple things like someone telling you that there “is less than a 5K to go”, or “it’s all downhill after the turn”, or even just “looking strong!”. I wish I had pictures of some of the great costumes and signs I saw, but there wasn’t time to stop for that!
Miles seven through nine also went really well, I wasn’t feeling tired or ready to give out. Somewhere around mile 8 the fork for half and full marathon came up, at that point I felt great and really wished I could do the full, I call that my 8 mile hubris! Luckily I didn’t do anything as dumb as trying to take on the full, I just looked at the fork and told myself “next time”.
That was obviously the right thing to do, because while I may have been feeling like I could do anything at mile 8, the reality of mile 11 was right around the corner! This is where the run started to be difficult for me, which makes sense, 11 miles was the farthest I had run in training. Making it from mile 11.5 to mile 12.5 was tough, encouragement from the crowds and fellow runners was incredibly helpful here. Just being able to talk with other runners around me was a hugely helpful distraction that went a long way toward keeping me going. It’s nice having a shared sense of purpose with the people around you, we were going through the same thing, and we were helping each other find the strength to finish.
Somewhere around mile 12 to 12.5 there were some fairly cruel hills that almost took it out of me, I started to think that I was going to have to walk the rest of the race. I did actually stop here and walk for the first time. I counted to 20 in my head, and then took off running. This was around mile 12.5, and not long later I turned a corner and could see the finish line!
I’m not sure exactly how far it was from that turn to the finish line, maybe a quarter of a mile, it was hard to judge at that point. However, seeing the finish line and hearing the roar of the crowd brought back all of my energy, suddenly I felt like the race had just started! I ran faster in that final stretch than I had at any point during the race, it felt great! I also had the good fortune to be finishing around the same time that the full marathon winner was finishing, I saw him go by me a minutes or so before I finished! He was getting huge cheers from the crowd, it was great to be there at that time, sharing in the moment!
Crossing the finish line was overwhelming, it was one of the most proud moments of my life, a huge milestone on my personal ongoing journey of fitness. I have been very out of shape and overweight most of my life, just over two years ago I was around 270 lbs, which is well past the point of obesity on the BMI scale. In 2010 I started to take my health seriously, I worked at eating well and doing light exercises, by the end of the year I weighed around 195 lbs. In 2011 I decided to take up running, to continue to lose weight, but also to work on being a more fit and active person. I didn’t really take it too seriously that year, but I did make some progress. I went from not being able to run a quarter-mile without getting winded, to being able to run almost 3 miles.
In February, I started to think about running in a more serious way and made the decision to start training for this half marathon. I made more progress in those three months than I would have ever thought possible. Six months ago I would have laughed at the idea of completing a half marathon, it’s amazing how fast you can change your own perspective! Today I weigh around 175 lbs, nearly 100 less than when I started, and I couldn’t be happier with the progress. I couldn’t have done it alone though, I’m very thankful for the support and encouragement from my family and friends over the years!
My final chip time for the race was 2 hours and 20 minutes, five minutes slower than my actual goal time. Despite not quite making my goal, I still feel great about it overall and it’s left me determined to improve and run a full marathon at the end of the year! I have a long way to go and a lot of work to make that happen, but now I know that I can do it!