Here's a bold statement: The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is one of--if not the best-- organized marathon I have ever run. That includes two of the biggies, NYC and the Marine Corps Marathon.
The start is emotional and inspiring. The aid stations are plentiful (seems like they are at least every 3/4 of a mile). The volunteers are enthusiastic. Every mile marker has a large digital clock displaying official race time and a chart showing your predicted finish time based on your current pace. In addition to the normal goodies (cotton race t-shirt and finisher's medal), you get a nice technical finisher's shirt. The finish is fantastic with a 6-block sprint downtown lined with people. Oh, and the cheeseburger they give you after crossing the mat doesn't hurt either.
But let's start at the beginning.
2:00 a.m. I picked up Jballs and we drove through the night to meet up with Nancy, our incredible Oklahoma City connection.
I met Nancy earlier this year running the hills of Bandera. When she mentioned she was from Oklahoma, I conned her into agreeing to pick up my race packet for the marathon, as Jballs and I would be coming in just before the start of the race. She graciously agreed and then some--hooking us up with great parking, very nice pre-race restrooms (no line!), and directions navigating the city.
Near the end of our 200-mile drive north from Fort Worth, Jballs and I stopped in Norman for a pre-marathon Waffle House breakfast. Getting out the car, we were shocked at how much the temperature had dropped since leaving Texas. Welcome to Oklahoma--cold and rainy.
After chowing down on eggs, bacon, toast, and waffles, we loaded back into the car and drove another 15 minutes to Oklahoma City, where Nancy was waiting with our race packets.
The wind was picking up and the rain was coming down. It was dark and damp. Nancy ushered us to First United Methodist Church, where we were greeted by enthusiastic volunteers serving a pancake breakfast and offering a pre-race refuge from the nasty conditions outside.
10 minutes later, we were out in the cold again, zig zagging through the crowds toward the marathon start.
And, oh yeah, in typical fashion, we were late. But only about 8 minutes. God bless chip timing.
So how was the run itself?
Honestly... it sucked.
At least, the first half of the marathon sucked. Bad.
Other than a few short turns here and there, most of those first 11 miles run directly north. North--where an evil, 20+ mile per hour headwind greeted us manically. And when we did turn west, we still had a crosswind to contend with. It was brutal. Lean into the wind brutal. Blow you over brutal. We were gutting it out, but our pace was painfully slow given the effort exerted. At the 13.1 mile marker, we found ourselves running a 4:20 marathon pace.
And then we got to Lake Hefner and for the first time turned south.
And it was marvelous.
Our pace quickened, and we began to finally talk to one another. (The first 14 miles had been run mostly in silence as we individually dealt with putting one foot in front of the other in the face of the wind.) We started passing folks right and left, and finished strong.
4 hours, 10 minutes, 41 seconds. Under the circumstances, I was quite pleased.
Walking back to the car, medal around my neck and a munching on a Carl's Jr. cheeseburger, I vowed to come back again next year.
p.s. Sorry, no pics. I left the camera at home and the official photos from the race are copyrighted and locked so I can't post them on my blog unless I want to pay the low, low price of at least $12.95 for a 5x7.
p.p.s. I'm all for photographers getting paid for their efforts (my wife is a photographer), but the prices they charge for marathon photos are a bit excessive.