Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Run to Remember... OKC Memorial Half Marathon

My training wasn't as aggressive as my training seemed to be last year. However, I did log most of the training miles for this event. So it was with high hope, as I exited the hotel and into the chill of the Oklahoma City morning, that I would get what I came for. A Personal Record was on the agenda as I fueled with a banana and gulped Kashi Crunch out of a cup with no spoon. Strolling the sidewalk with my best friend, who I had inspired to become a runner, I stumble over a curb as I take in my breakfast. Oh great.... "how did you get the knee injury Holly?" would hate for "stumbling an hour before the race on a curb" to be my answer. I laugh at myself and continue our walk to the Survivor Tree to meet other runners.

If you have ever been a registrant for the 5k, half marathon or marathon at the OKC Memorial Race, you have most likely received a voucher to attend the museum. I didn't go last year, but decided to go with the group of friends I was here to run with. Unbelievable is the only way to describe the offerings of knowledge, artifacts, images and even audio of what happened that tragic day and the sad, heart wrenching days that followed. Come prepared to be moved by the spirit and heart of Oklahomans as they took on what was tragically dealt them. You get a full taste of why this run should be on every runner's run calendar. We Run to Remember...

We arrive the Survivor Tree and find the first of five runners that will share in the event. The wind is whipping and we are all shivering with wonder as to how it will affect body temp and time. The others arrive and introductions are exchanged and pre-race photos are taken. Fully hydrated we all decide to have that last visit to run as empty as possible. Making our way to the portable potty's we are stopped by announcement that the 168 seconds of silence to remember those lost is now starting. Prayer and thoughts go up at this special time. I personally thank God for my health and productive training, that affords me the ability to Run and Remember just what happened here.

A hurried walk to the starting coral, we find an opening in the perimeter fence. The five running the half find our positions and wait anxiously for the start. As the countdown to the gun begins, or air horn in this case, the adrenaline surges and the goose bumps rise. The thrill of the start is the best!! In a mass start of nearly 10,000 runners and wheelchair racers, it takes but a few minutes to get going as you know or can imagine. It doesn't take to long to get into a good road rhythm. The scene ahead as the soles of shoes alternate in unison.

The four of us fall into a comfortable pace and separate. I find myself closing in on a man that carries a regulation, full size Marine Corp. flag. I had noticed him earlier leaving my hotel when we were heading to the race. As I get closer, I hear other fellow marines in their loyal brethren character “hooah” as they pass by. I feel compelled to fall into pace with this man, extend a kind pat on the back and say “Good Morning”. “In Honor of” can be read on the second bib that is attached to the shirt of this Marine. He runs honoring the lives of two of his Marine brothers that died in the OKC bombing. He has run every year in their honor, the full marathon no less. He goes on to tell me that it gets harder as he gets older. He thanked me for running today as I did him. He holds strong as his flag holds steady with every stride. I pull away at the second aid station and don’t see him again. Amazing character....

The crowd of supporters, official or otherwise, are in even larger numbers from last year. This is the tenth anniversary of this run. The memories are lasting at this run, with the exception of the hills. I didn’t remember this many hills. In fact, I was the only one out of 7 runners sitting at dinner the previous evening and was asked how technical the course was. “Pretty flat with some slight incline and the bridge at the beginning. Through my excitement of my first half marathon I had forgotten the hills from 2009... It was brought up again at the finish!

I feel pretty good until mile 11 and I get slower... tired legs want to stop, but find the power to gut it out. Last year I didn’t stop once, cruised through the aid stations and felt great at mile 12. This year a few walks under 20 seconds each. I am finding that every race is different of course. Take a quick look at my Garmin half mile out and with a quick calculation KNOW that I will come in under my last years time! Start my kick about 150 yards out as Mike, one of my running partners, cheers me on... The finish most rewarding when you dig deep! 2:10:49

A fabuls day had by me!! :)