A marathon to remember

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Johnathan Ward
  • 55th Security Forces Squadron
Running and training for a marathon is one of the most difficult things anyone will ever do in their lifetime. Although the 26.2 miles of the event is the shortest part, it gives the runner an honest look at who they really are and what they are capable of.

Completing a marathon is an accomplishment that will last a lifetime and can never be taken away. Most people set out on the endeavor with something special in mind. It may be seeing through a personal commitment, becoming more fit and often a reason only the runner can understand.

The 10th Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was not about the runners. It was about remembering the 168 men, women and children that died in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19th, 1995 during a senseless act of terrorism.
The marathon began in 2001 as a way to support the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The museum and memorial don't receive state, local or federal funding so the admission fees to enter the race, sales of merchandise and private fundraisers allow the memorial and museum to remain self-sustaining, more importantly however, they ensure those who lost their lives will not be forgotten.

Over the years the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has contributed more than $1.6 million to the memorial and museum.

The 2010 edition of the race, which started at 6:30 a.m., April 25, began with 168 seconds of silence. The sheer mass of humanity was almost impossible to process. You could have heard a pin drop in a crowd of more than 23,000 runners.

After the start of the run, the course led us into the Bricktown District. The area is full of renovated brick buildings, restaurants and a newly-built ball park. Traveling east, runners were greeted by the sun as it rose over the Capitol building.

Miles five through 11 thinned the field just enough to take in the city's beautiful historic neighborhoods. As we relaxed and set into our race pace, my running partner pointed something out. Several runners were wearing race bibs on their backs to honor each person who was killed in the bombing. Some bibs honored several victims. As I read each one I realized we were running with friends and relatives of the victims of the bombing.

As the race began to wind past the halfway point and later into miles 17 though 20, I thought the memorial foundation spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to pay for the route support, aid-station workers, physicians and corporate support for the race. A few days later, however, I learned that more than 6,000 people volunteered to support the race and that not a single person was paid to help.

Miles 24 through 26.2 led back to the museum and memorial through a crowd of screaming fans. At the finish, runners were greeted by volunteers passing out drinks, blankets, medical care items and even free hamburgers from a national fast-food restaurant. Although this marathon was my ninth, I've never experienced such a generous and sincere city. Everyone from aid-station workers to the ladies handing out finisher medals at the end thanked me for coming to their city.

I should have been the one thanking them for their hospitality. The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was truly a run to remember.

(Editor's Note: Sergeant Ward finished the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 3 hours 32 minutes and 48 seconds.)