By Heide Brandes | Photography provided by Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum
Photography provided by Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum
The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon will be held on April 30, and organizers are challenging citizens to be brave and sign up to run a race, especially if they have never done it before.
Jennifer Couch of Oklahoma City ran her first Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 2016 to honor those who died on April 19, 1995 during the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing.
“I ran the first time last year because I was always told I couldn’t run due to asthma,” she said. “I am over 40 and decided that I was going to have a bucket list. One of those things was to run a half marathon. I loved it! Last year was for myself, but what blew me away were the emotions behind it.”
“When the bombing happened, my daughter was two years old. It rocked me to my core. The empathy I felt for those who lost children has always affected me, so this year, and every year after is for those who died that day and for the surviving families who have to live with it every single day, not just one day a year.”
This year’s race, which offers everything from a Kid’s Run or 5K to a full marathon, will introduce new elements for 2017, including a Classen Stretch Block Party and a new children’s finish line location and party.
Held annually in remembrance and honor of the 168 people killed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Bombing on April 19, 1995, The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is about more than running—it is about celebrating life and supporting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
From its inaugural race in 2001 with just shy of 5,000 participants, the event now hosts more 24,000 runners and walkers from every state and several foreign countries.
“The marathon is a coming together to pause and remember those who lost their lives and the survivors and to see how far we’ve come as a city in 22 years,” said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate life and our ability to move forward.”
All funds from the Memorial Marathon go to support the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which receives no federal funding.
New This Year
New for 2017, the Kids Marathon will finish in Kerr Park instead of the parking lot it traditionally ended in. Watkins said the park, which was recently renovated thanks to Sandridge Energy and the City of Oklahoma City, will host a party at the finish line. Children and their families can take pictures with mascots, grab some food, dance to a DJ and head over to the Kids FunZone at First Church.
“For many kids, this will be their first time downtown, so we want to make it fun for them,” Watkins said.
Also new to 2017’s race is the Oklahoma Standard Classen Stretch and Block Party. The longest stretch of the race comes on Classen Boulevard. As runners come down Classen, they will be motivated by the Oklahoma Standard Stretch from NW 23rd through NW 18th Street. As the runners make their way into Midtown neighborhoods, the OK Standard Block Party at the corner of 18th and Classen will feature food trucks, music and lots of cheering for the runners as they hit the last stretch towards the downtown finish line.
“The Oklahoma Standard Stretch will show off the renaissance of our city,” Watkins said. “The Oklahoma City LOYAL Class took that on, and it will not only help runners through one of the most challenging stretches of the race, but also show how we as a city have moved on.”
An Honored Tradition
Many traditional aspects of the race remain, including Gorilla Hill, where volunteers outfitted in banana suits hand out bananas to runners, and a 40-foot gorilla is hoisted to greet them as they top the mammoth hill. Thunder Girls will cheer for runners from in front of Chesapeake Arena and much more.
“We had 24,000 runners last year, and this year, we’re ahead of where we were with registrations,” Watkins said. “Even if you’ve never run or trained for a marathon, there are still ways to get involved, including a 5K, a kids’ race, a relay and the half and full marathon. With so many different races, anyone can do it and get involved.”
Be A Part Of The Fun
Voted one of the 12 “must-run” marathons in the world by Runner’s World magazine, the 26.2 mile course begins at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, winds through the Capitol and Oklahoma City’s historic neighborhoods and ends in Automobile Alley. Along the way, runners pass 168 banners, each bearing the name of one of those who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Marathon is a Boston qualifying USATF sanctioned event on a certified (OK-08019-DG) 26.2 mile single loop course.
The Half Marathon is perfect for those who haven’t trained for the full marathon and is an experience as meaningful as the full.
The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 5-person relay allows runners to share the experience with family and friends. The race has two 3.1 mile legs, two 6.2 mile legs and one 7.5 mile leg, so opportunities for runners of all skill levels and walkers are welcome. Relay participants receive all of the “extras” marathon and half marathon runners do, including a custom medal for finishing.
Runners of all levels can experience the excitement and emotion of the race by running or walking in the Memorial 5K, which is a timed event.
For more information or to register, visit okcmarathon.com.
“Oklahoma City is such a special place. The race is a way of taking an awful day in our history and turning it into something good,” said Oklahoma City runner Lennon Patton. “It’s the most OKC thing I can think of, to be honest. I encourage everyone to get involved with the race, either as a participant or volunteer. It’s a special thing that I look forward to all year.”