His first full marathon.

This morning I woke up at 4 so that I could be on the road by 5. Kirk was up too, getting ready. His bag was packed and his clothes laid out. As I was finishing up my makeup, he was finishing up his pre-event routine of K-tape and body glide, terms foreign to me until he began doing triathlons just a few years ago.

Today was the day that 25,500 people ran to remember and honor those 168 lost in the bombing here 20 years ago. This is the 15th year of the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon, one that grows every year.

I dropped Kirk off at 5:30 and headed home with the intention to stay up and be super productive. After all, if Kirk was going to run 26.2 miles, the least I could do was stay awake. I fell asleep and didn’t get up again until almost three hours later.

Traffic was easy. I know this city well from our last time here, so we arrived and easily found parking just two blocks from the Memorial. Runners having already finished shorter distances left the area wrapped in aluminum blankets. We paused to see the memorial itself for a few minutes. Athletes walked around, stretched, and gathered with others to place their medals carefully on chairs bearing the name of someone they knew. It’s difficult to stand and see this place without feeling emotional. For many here, it’s still deeply felt – their lives forever changed by that day.

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By the end of Kirk’s race, we’d see some chairs nearly covered with bib numbers, medals, and signs showing they ran “in memory of…”

The crowds were thick, but not impossible. We were able to get to the finish line, and after waiting just a few minutes, Elise found a spot in front with a good view and the rest of us claimed our spot standing on planter boxes in front of Plenty. Then we waited.

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There was a kids run, a 5K, a relay, a half, and a full marathon and they all came across the same finish line, distinguished by their bib color. Firefighters came across in their full gear, teams of women wearing pink glittery tutus, families ran across together, Captain American ran with a giant American Flag waving it as he crossed the line, and one team ran in costume as the cast of the Wizard of Oz.

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I just looked for blue until I saw Kirk, a little later than we thought, but running and smiling. We followed him on our side of the fencing as he grabbed some of the snacks offered to the runners, cookies, bananas, Carl’s Jr. cheeseburgers, then handed three cookies through the fence for the girls. We finally met with careful hugs, love the guy, but after 26.2 miles, even he admitted he stunk.

 

There isn’t much you can do after a marathon. We were tired from heat and waiting and his legs weren’t excited about doing any more walking. We stopped at the memorial before heading home. After all, this is the reason that people come… they “Run to Remember” and honor.

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The reflecting pool and walls of this memorial sit where the road ran in front of the federal building that was destroyed. You can see the road continue now on the other side of the memorial through the doors.

“We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

 

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Each of these 168 chairs represents a person who died as a result of the terrorist bombing on 19 April 1995. The small chairs represent children.

What does my athlete do after his first marathon?  An ice bath and a nap. Dinner?  Pizza and beer. The girls were thrilled – any excuse to eat pizza is a good one.

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