This past Sunday I lined up with thousands of other runners for my 8th running of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. As I waited for the (30 minute delayed) start of the race I listened to U2’s Beautiful Day … for the 4th time in a one hour time span. At the time it was cold, rainy and just downright miserable outside. And we had been standing around for an extra 30 minutes waiting for the storm to pass (it never did pass). Was this song choice wishful thinking on the part of the race directors? As I listened to it, I wondered if I would classify my race day as a beautiful one.
As I said before, this was the 8th time I have participated in this particular race. Once in the full marathon, a couple of times on a five man relay team and the other times (this year included) in the half marathon. For the past few years I have been on the official pace team as the pace setter for those wishing to finish the half marathon in two hours and thirty minutes. I was initially disappointed to not be pacing this year, but in retrospect, I have a new found appreciation for my sacrifices as a pacer. I didn’t have to work the expo. I didn’t have to get to the start line an hour early and stand out in the cold by myself. I didn’t have to run for 13.1 miles carrying a stick with balloons on the end. And I didn’t spend the entire race obsessing over my watch and how fast I was running. I just ran with my mom and enjoyed the scenery.
The race offered some interesting firsts for me this year. It was my first real race run in the rain. I’ve trained in the rain and I may have done a 5K in the rain, but never a longer race. This was the first marathon where the runners kept their trash bags on for the entire race. For those of you not familiar with marathoning, often runners will cut a hole in a trash bag and wear it over their body at the start of the race to stay warm. They (I am one of them, actually) then discard the bag at the start of the race. Its a lot cheaper to throw away a trash bag then to throw away a shirt. I actually forgot my trash bag this year, but lucked into a group of runners who were discarding ponchos that my mom and I claimed and ended up wearing the entire race. I also saw many other forms of plastic bag rain wear on the course.
One of the aspects I’ve always loved about the OKC marathon is the crowd support and the excellent water stops. Amazingly, this year was no exception. In spite of the horrible weather, thousands of people still came out to watch the race and cheer the runners on. When you are running for such long distances, it makes a huge difference to have people cheering for you the whole way. The volunteers were even more amazing. The marathon has water stops almost every mile (around 20 total) and all of them were well manned. Many of those volunteers were standing in the cold and rain for 7 hours handing out water. They even got hailed on at one point. I think the race directors ought to give them a medal for their efforts this year.
I did have a wonderful and very memorable race. The only down sides were the 30 minute delay (I really would have liked to sleep in an extra 30 minutes, if only I’d known), and the extreme cold once I stopped running at the end. The wonderful course, the great crowd support, the even more wonderful volunteers and the opportunity to run the race with my mom again after several years running separate more than made up for any negatives. In the end (for me at least) the 11th running of the OKC Memorial Marathon did live up to the race directors’ musical choice. It was a beautiful day, even if it was a bit wet out.