It is difficult to put into words exactly what running the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has meant to me. On the outside looking in, a marathon appears to be a feat of great physical proportions (and to some degree it is), but from my vantage point, running has always been about so much more than the sport. (More details here and here.) The reality of that perspective was impressed indelibly upon my heart when I found myself striding along the 26.2 mile course, along with nearly 25,000 fellow runners, witnessing sights that moved me so deeply that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was in the company of heroes, warriors, and saints...I was humbly inspired by individuals in wheel chairs using the incredible strength of their arms and unbelievable determination to tackle the miles, and a father pushing his handicapped son in a stroller - a son who cheered me on as I passed by. The most precious vision was an elderly couple, tall and slender with white hair wearing long socks, friendly smiles and a twinkle in their eyes. They held hands devotedly as they took each mile one small stride at a time together down the road.
There were veterans of war holding our own American flag as they ran, firefighters in full dress packing the burdensome weight of their gear for the 1/2 marathon, several runners with unique physical disabilities fueled by a grit and determination that few of us will ever understand, and waves of enthusiastic participants who showed their love and support for Boston through their red socks or blue and yellow shirts. A few runners, who were unable to complete the Boston marathon, were invited by the marathon committee to join the race, giving them the opportunity to finish an emotional race that had really begun weeks ago.
It wasn't just the company of runners who inspired me, but the thousands of volunteers who rallied around the event to do everything from pass out water and cheer on runners to hold back traffic and stand alert, ready to protect us from any possible danger or harm. Countless families came out to show their love and support, including kiddos who, still donning fuzzy jammies and rooster tails, stood along the road's edge, offering high fives and grins filled with so much enthusiasm you couldn't help but smile back.
Covering the distance wasn't easy, I'll admit, but the training of the body is by far secondary to the training of the mind, of the heart. And, that is where the running community finds their connection - not in running but in the reasons why we run. Every sacrifice, every burden, every disappointment, every pain, every loss, every ounce of hunger for healing, for peace, for authentic love that we have ever experienced in life is why we run, and running is simply the tangible expression of the faith that we have in something greater than ourselves, greater than the moment, greater than the miles we have overcome.
Running in the marathon, accomplishing a goal that took 17 years to fulfill, has truly nourished my heart and soul in ways that I never could have anticipated. And, the love that I have for the running community at large has a permanent place inside of me, a love that I hope that I can continue to share with others, including my own family. I cannot say thank you enough to everyone who lovingly offered to pray for me during the race, who have supported me from start to finish and who always believed that despite my age and physical set backs I could do it. You truly were there with me during the weeks of training and the race, participating in all of the grace filled moments of a journey that I have waited so long to make. I will forever be honored by your faith in me!
What will my next running venture be?? Well, honestly, the sweetest adventure in my life isn't running, it's being a mom! Steve and I would love to have more children, and if we cannot, then adoption is a beautiful road we would be happy to travel down. If more children are not in the Lord's plan for our lives, then I definitely see a life-time of running in my future, including a return trip to Oklahoma City, and the organization of a LIFE Runners chapter in our community.
Here is a chronological scrapbook of the weekend.
I hope you enjoy it!
Of course, the only photo I took was of the lounge (go figure). Whoever sewed those curtains must have a crazy wicked sewing machine and talent to match!
The red piano was stunning. I wish the boys had been there to play it!
Down the hall, just outside our room, was this incredibly stylish chaise lounge and a retro phone. I'm not above goofing around a bit! Thankfully, Steve kept me in stitches all day on Saturday, which helped tame the nerves a bit.
Organization is the key to a successful race, and OK City has this perfected. After I picked up my packet, we went on to the running expo, where they had several great vendors selling everything from shoes and ear buds to blinking light accessories for night running. The famous runner, Dick Beardsley, was there to share his story, give advice and sign autographs.
Before the race began, a prayer service took place along with 168 seconds of silence to honor those who lost their lives in the 1995 bombing.
Every year the race begins at sunrise in front of the memorial, a beautiful way to honor all those who died in and who have been affected by the 1995 tragedy.
Another view of the start of the race (photo courtesy of OKC Marathon).
Me posing with my friend Challie (who ran the 1/2) just before the race began at 6:30 a.m.
I love this photo of the kids marathon - a perfect expression of innocence and hope!
The route was truly beautiful, winding through historic neighborhoods, down to the capital building and even around a scenic lake. There was always something to set your sights upon, which helps distract you from the pain!
The route was lined with the greatest supporters and fans cheering the runners on, and holding up funny signs that truly made you laugh out loud!
The marathon sponsored several bands to play for us along the route, and in addition to that, many enthusiastic spectators set up speaker systems that played everything from heavy metal to 80's punk. It was great!!
Steve met me at mile 5, mile 13, mile 20 and mile 25 to let me know where he would be standing near the finish. He snapped this picture of me, just as I saw his face about 1/2 mile from the finish line.
I wasn't prepared for the emotion that I would feel when I saw him so close to the finish along with his sister, Jennifer, her two children and a few of their friends.
I did the ugly cry at the finish, and with my hands covering my face in embarrassment, a gentleman (who looked like Sean Connery) put a medal around my neck and his arms around my shoulders, letting me know that it was okay to cry. That just made me cry even more. I was a mess. Next time, I'll wear sunglasses.
My biggest fan. The marathon was a beautiful experience for both of us!
Of course, there must be a post-marathon celebration!! Nothing sounded better to me than an icy cold mug of beer and a burger (with fries, extra grease and lots of salt, please)!!
After popping in to check out this pub, we decided it would do.
At least we knew their taps would not run out!
If anyone knows where I can get a copy of this print, please message me. I'm in love with this man.
After a shower and a nap, we were surprised to hear room service knock at our door offering these beautiful gifts sent up by my sister, Sara, and her family and my parents. Yum!!
When I got home, the boys covered me with hugs. They took turns wearing my medal, asking me if I had won the race. When I told them no, my 5 year old, Henry, said, "That's okay, Mom, you'll win next time." I already have, Henry. I already have.