I ran 26.2 miles for the 8th time on Sunday, April 27, 2015. This was my 7th full marathon race, 8th of the marathon distance and 4th Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I’d say I will remember this one more than any of the others, but I think that’s a lie because I remember them all apart from my Chicago Marathon, two-thirds of which I can’t recall. This year’s OKC Marathon was completely different for me in many ways.
I signed up for this run in December. I was smart about it, getting in before the price jump… so I thought. I ran with my group at Koda CrossFit the month of January. Then on February 4th, I was playing against a group of college kids at the Colvin Center at Oklahoma State in a 5-on-5 pick-up basketball game. Unbeknownst to me, it was game 7 of the NBA Championship and I was fouled into the wall during a layup and somehow hurt my heel pretty bad. I wasn’t able to put pressure on it for a few days and running was out of the question for a good month. I began to wonder if I was going to run it at all. I started to pick my runs up a little in the middle of March and made a few of the April runs, none of which were greater than the 10k distance. I decided in April that I’d at least try the run. If all else failed, I had multiple turn off points throughout the course where a mimosa would be waiting for me if I needed to call it quits.
The morning of, I woke up after a great night’s sleep at 3:45. Had my bagel, my cup of coffee and headed to Koda to gather some folks before heading down to the start. It’s always easier to wake up and be excited for a race when there is a group around feeding off that excitement… and bathrooms that aren’t port-a-potties. At 5:35, we headed downtown to make the start. With Koda having a good relationship with SandRidge Energy and me having coached there for over a year, I made my way to the fitness center with Andi and her husband. We got to enjoy one last little bathroom trip and talk with a few more friends before needing to be at the start. The start was way crazier than I remember because last year, the race had been delayed for two hours so the barricades weren’t up or something because this time around, I had to climb through a fence in order to just be on the course. I missed the 168 seconds of silence trying to make my way through the crowd as well as the National Anthem and all of sudden, boom, we’re off.
- Start – It’s always a great feeling to blast off at the beginning. The crowd pumps you up and we’re running through the streets of a usually busy downtown area. It’s a great time and I always have a smile on my face. It’s tough to weave through the crowd but you have to as there are usually walkers or firefighters or folks in the wrong corral ahead of you. Heck, I may have been in the wrong corral this year.
- Mile 1 – My pace is actually right where it needs to be. 8:40 or so. I knew this year that I’d go out slower and finish even slower than normal (read: previous pace) because of my lack of preparation. I took that into account. Plus, I didn’t have my GPS watch because it was stolen a few weeks prior. That also helped me not pay attention to my clock and just run.
- Need to find a bathroom. It always happens at mile 2 for some reason. Always. I hold off.
- It was warming up quick. I was feeling fine. We’re heading towards the Capitol and I see Karl from Koda. He was more sore than I’d be from a competition the day before. This part of the race is weird to me. Heading towards the Capitol building is fun, but the area and crowd support isn’t super great just because of the large distance that’s covered right here and it’s all in a straight line. I see Katie Walker and wave as I continue on.
- Turning back into the “city” areas is great. We head north from 23rd into a fun area that I’ve come to love in the recent years. Gorgeous yards, pretty houses and for marathon weekend, great crowd support for the next 4 miles. I see Cameron, whose mother used to babysit me back in my kindergarten days. As we approach Edgemere Park, I miss seeing the Arguello’s on the bridge as their kids were participating in the kids marathon at that same time downtown.
- When we turn on 37th heading towards the Gorilla Hill area, there is a house that always has vodka shots. I’m running the half-marathon sometime and stopping at every fun stop there is. Some have vodka, others mimosa, others donuts and bacon. But when running a full marathon, never a good idea at mile 5.
- Gorilla Hill! I see Jerad Abbott, Reid Reagan, Jared Muse, Gary Wood and others passing what is probably the best known area of the marathon. Love drunk people at 7:30am. Always great.
- This year’s course was a bit different with construction happening on Western so instead of getting to run right by Megan’s house, we had to run all the way to 50th on Shartel. Once we got to 50th and Western, Megan and her weenie dog, Bailey, were there waiting for me. I stopped for a quick second to talk to them and that’s when I realized my foot was hurting. Not the foot that was hurt earlier in the season, but the other one. I must have been favoring it a bit. Mile 8. That’s not good. Also, this is the part that kind of stinks. The half marathoners keep going west to Classen and the full marathoners turn north heading towards the Chesapeake campus. The crowd lightens and you begin to settle in knowing you have almost a shit-ton of miles left. Mental battle, commence.
- From here, things are not necessarily boring, just not a whole lot to remember. Classen to Britton seems almost entirely uphill. I get to see a few Kodites at the 3rd relay exchange. And then, we start heading west towards Lake Hefner. It was in this section of the race that I saw a high school classmate, Krystal, and then the best sign of the day. A lot of folks go with the classics, “Harder, Faster, Stronger… That’s what she said” or the ever popular, “Don’t trust a fart,” but this one got me the most: “Free Wifi.” I laughed and kept at it.
- Running around the lake is a good thing, mainly because it’s the point where you turn around and start heading back. I was hanging in there with the 3:50 pace group. Right where I wanted to be. I stayed with them for 4 miles or so and then started to drop back around Mile 18 but I knew I had 10 minutes to play with until that 4:00 marathon mark. It was at mile 18 where Cole, Bo and Megan were supposed to meet me with some nutrition. As I approached our usual meeting spot (it’s awful that I have a usual meeting spot on a marathon course…) I didn’t see them and then I look towards the south and from afar I can spot Chloe. I yell and keep running. About a minute later, Cole and Chloe are sprinting up towards my side and Megan is not far behind. I get my nutrition thankfully(!!).
- Now begins the hard part. I’m lucky enough to run with a group that runs Nichols Hills every Sunday so I know this part of the course well. There are a few gradual climbs and then a solid downhill with a straight-away before getting to the hardest climb of the course just before Classen Curve. After Classen Curve, it’s just one big boring stretch heading south. During that stretch this time, I was able to see Megan once more and she was also able to get caught taking a selfie by Katie Walker, so that was fun.
- Up to this point at Mile 24-25, I was feeling good. Not great, but good. I was able to have continued to run without walking and as I turn and see the mile 25 flag and also Jared and Emily Pomeroy and crew. Jared rode his bike with me for a bit and as soon as he turned away, HAMSTRING CRAMP. Same spot as last year and same people that I last saw before it happened last year too. I know how to handle these (un)fortunately. They hurt. It feels like you won’t be able to get going again, but as soon as you fight through that first step, in my previous experiences including this one, I’ve been fine until the end. As I was stretching out my hamstring, the 4:00 pace group passed me. That was my goal I had in my head. That upset me that they were passing me. Once I began running again, I picked it up. I was close. I fought for this one and I passed that 4:00 group again. As I was running down Broadway, it seemed like it would never end. Finally, the crowd thickened and the yells were getting stronger. I kept running at my faster pace and crossed the finish line completing my 7th marathon, what felt like my hardest yet.
From there, it’s a disaster trying to get to my car. Not because of the race, or the organization or the crowds but because walking has now all of a sudden become dangerously hard. Wobbling to my car, I was happy, but that quarter-mile trek was the hardest part of the marathon. I celebrated with friends at our usual post-marathon spot, Republic, where day drinking at 10:30am can begin because after 26 miles, that 7pm bedtime cannot come soon enough.