I had the privilege of running the 10th Annual OKC Marathon this last Sunday. This was my third time running it and something about it keeps drawing me back. I have never had a real good run time here as the weather has played a factor in times past and that is why some people prefer to do the Little Rock Marathon in March. Despite all that, there is something mystical about the race. The way the city comes out and supports it is truly amazing. I really appreciate how all the volunteers encourage you and say Thanks for coming out and running the race. The city really embraces it and supports it. It is very evident when you are out on the course. The Route 66 Marathon here in Tulsa could learn a lesson from them about how to put on a great race.
We left Tulsa early Saturday afternoon and rolled into OKC about 3 pm to see things like this. Unfortunately, the expo was the same day as the OKC Thunder basketball game against the Lakers. The game wasn't until that night, but people were already lining up. The Cox Center is where the packet pick up is and it is right next to the Ford Center, where the Thunder play. Not to be out done, the annual Arts festival was in the park next to the Cox Center. Traffic was backed up way back on Robinson all the way to I-40. I had never seen the packet pick up this bad. They were expecting record numbers this year and it showed. We hurried up and got our packet and headed south to Moore to our room. It was time to get some food and relax. 3:45 Am was going to be early.
I set the alarm for 4 Am, but I was up at 3:45 AM and I was starting to get ready. We made it out the door and downtown at about 5:30 AM. Race start is 6:30 AM. I knew that I would have to make one last port-a-potty stop and I wanted to get there early as it is a typical race to where the ratio of runners to port-a-potty's seems to be off. I made it through the line and headed north to the corral a little before 6 AM. When I got there most of the people were huddled in the back with slower pace times and they had special black dot seating up closer. I got into the slower corral, not knowing what it all meant. I looked down at my bib and I saw a black dot. Hurray! I could move up. I made my way up and was able to get close to start. I talked to Wes Hollander who was pacing the 2 hr 1/2 Marathon group and then I ran into Darryl Stillson who was pacing the 1:45 1/2 Marathon group. I was standing around checking out the competition, when I got bumped into by good friend, Bill Richardson. Bill is a great trail runner and does have a Marathon PR of 2:47. He is a really great guy and talking with him, made the time fly by, which was good since I had on a singlet and it was in the lower 50's with the wind blowing. I was ready to get moving. One of the most poignant parts of the race is the 168 seconds of silence in remembrance of the 168 who lost their lives in the bombing. Nothing like 23,000 runners suddenly going completely still out of respect for those who lost their lives. Finally at 6:30 AM, it was time to go.
I set my Garmin for a Quick Workout with the Virtual Partner so I could just look and see where I was at. I set it for 3:10, which I knew may be a little aggressive, but what the heck. Finally, the gun sounded and we were off. In the first 1/2 mile I started feeling a little tightness around my chest and wasn't for sure what was going on. I was hoping it would go away, otherwise it was going to be a long day. A little while later it did go away to never return. My pace felt pretty good at this point, but around mile 4 I started to get some side cramps and had to take some electrolytes to have it go away. I thought it was a little early for this to happen, but every race is different. I hit the 10K in 44:20. A little faster than I wanted, but hey, just roll with it.
In between mile 8 and 9, just past the big Circus aid station is where I started to fade. I knew at this point, unless I started to feel better, 3:10 was out of the question, but maybe 3:15 or 3:20 was possible. This is where I can insert all the excuses as to why I couldn't make it. My running really hadn't been where it should have been. One of my problems is that I like to do too many things and should probably concentrate on just one thing, but I can't. I think for Boston next year I will try that over the winter months.
One we get to about mile 11 and headed West, this what we ran into, Wind. The wind was out of the West and was pretty strong. This definitely did not help my time, but I still made it through the half at 1:35. A little before mile 14 is where you hit Lake Hefner and this has to be one of the most boring sections of the race. Not only is it boring, but we were getting a cross wind. It reminds me of the section on Riverside from the Casino to 96th St. Boring! I am so glad to get out of that and head back into town. About mile 17 is where you head back in. At this point I am still clicking off 7:45 miles, but I know this is dropping my chances of even a 3:20. I hit the 32K at 2:29 and all I have to do is run a 50 minute 10K and 3:20 is in the bag. Yeah right! I really fell apart on this section. My average pace was 8:45. The little stretches of hills, especially the one up Classen was it for me. The hills are not very steep, but just enough to tick you off.
At about mile 25, I saw Darryl again and he ran a little with me and kept me going for a little while longer. Once I turned the corner and could see the finish line, I knew it was in the bag. I did not have a sprint left, but got passed by some guys from Tulsa right at the finish. If you had that much left, probably should have ran faster.
I was glad to be finished, but I did not feel really beat up. I just don't think I had enough good solid runs to get to where I needed. I am happy with my finish time of 3:23. I was 85th overall out of 2,597. I think I was 5th or 6th for all Tulsa area runners. This was my best OKC time, but not my PR. I still really enjoyed the race and the whole experience.
Once you get through, it is just a mass of people standing around at the finish reminiscing and trying to find family members and friends. I tried to eat back my registration fee in Carl's Jrs hamburgers and I think I succeeded. I think OKC has a good handle on this Marathon and I would recommend it to anyone.
The overall experience of the race is well worth checking it out. The people are great, the sponsors are great, and the atmosphere is astounding. When you get through with the race and you are hurting and then you go through the Memorial, you realize how minimal your pain really is. I may be suffering some temporary physical pain, but the emotional pain that others have endured does not even compare. God bless the families of those who lost loved ones on that fateful day and may God bless OKC.