In the beginning. It was good.
First things first, this marathon was hands down the exceptionally inspiring and emotional. To take something so tragic and awful as the bombing of a federal building that killed 168 men, women, and children and create a marathon that funds memorial charities and simultaneously honors those killed and celebrates a broken city's resiliency is amazing.
The race starts at the Memorial (which is an absolutely beautiful and touching and incredibly sad memorial). They do a 168 second moment of silence before the race in honor of all those who died that day. And all along the race course, there are 168 banners, each one with a name of one of the victims.
This marathon was different. It felt special in a way that even the Memphis St. Jude Marathon (the only other race that I've ran that tugged at my heart strings) didn't. Maybe it's because I was 15 when the bombing happened and I couldn't for the life of me figure out why anyone would do such a thing. At 36, I still wonder that, though, sadly, I'm not as shocked as I used to be.
All this to say
not so eloquently this marathon meant something. And I love the idea of memorializing a tragedy with something physical. Well done, OKC.
Now onto the report.
Everything logistically about this race was a breeze. We flew into Will Rogers airport, hopped in a cab, went to our hotel in Bricktown. And from then on were able to walk everywhere. The expo was close by, easy to navigate. The start line was about 3/4 of a mile away. And our hotel in Bricktown was REALLY close to restaurants (though, not gas stations, drugstores, or a convenience store that was open on Sunday).
The race was enormous. There were 24,000 people running either the half, the full, or the relay. The start was pretty congested, but thankfully, most people lined up where they should have been pace-wise, so, the race moved along fairly well in the first couple of miles.
It was a quiet and non-social race. I didn't mind, but I did think it was odd. Generally, I find myself talking to people whether I want to or not, but that wasn't the case during this race. I did get hit in the shoulder with an empty water bottle around mile 3 which really pissed me off. Someone on one side of the road, tried to dispose of their bottle on the opposite of the road, by thinking they could throw it safely across. It didn't make it, but it did scare the hell out of me when I felt it hit my shoulder. HAVE SOME MANNERS PEOPLE, hold onto it until you can toss it to the side. Ugh.
Pace-wise, I felt great. Usually by mile 7 or so, I can tell what kind of day it's going to be. And by mile 7, I felt like I was most likely going to be able to stay fairly on pace. The first half of the course was much hillier than I expected it, but, that's not to say it was hilly. I was just expecting pancake flat. It was not pancake flat. A lot of their roads were also concrete, which was really my only beef with the race. I'm not sure if that's just how roads are in Oklahoma, but I definitely felt some tweakiness in my joints at times that I attributed to the concrete.
I came through the half around 2:08. PERFECT. I was thrilled with that and felt like I had a good chance of being able to hang on.
And then we ran over a bridge and a lake appeared. As soon as we turned to run alongside the lake I was immediately greeted with a 21 mph headwind.
See the lake in the background?
I was like. Okay. This sucks, but I can get through it. The lake stretch is just windy. It can't be that long right? I'll just push through. It can't cost me that much time, right? And when I hit my mile split at mile 15, I was running a 10:40. Almost a full minute slower than my previous pace and damn, I felt like I was running harder. I didn't let it get to me, it's like... okay, whatever. I'll lose a couple of minutes, I'm not trying to qualify for Boston (ha!), I just want to have a good day, so, I'll focus on conserving energy through here and then when we turn away from the wind, I can resume MY race.
HA. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, after that, the wind never stopped. Even as we pulled away from the lake, the wind was directly on us. Is that why I felt so good the first half? Because I had a tailwind? Could be. I never feel the tailwind when it's there. But, the headwind was a total killer.
After 6 miles of the headwind and consistently running 10:45-11:15 that felt like it should have been 9:30 pace, I mentally started to break down a little. I walked a little. I was pissed that my body actually felt really good, but that my pace was just not reflecting that because of the wind. The wind would occasionally break for a couple of minutes, but when that happened, you realized how hot it was outside. So, it was almost like... I preferred the wind. Because it was keeping me cool.
I was really taking the effort to keep my body temperature down. Nothing kills a race for me like heat exhaustion and I didn't want a repeat of Chicago Marathon 2011. After mile 11, I started dumping water on my head at every water stop. I also drank water and gatorade at every single water stop (even the very first one). And I think because of all that (and the wind), I was able to keep it mostly together in the hot sun.
By mile 23, I got over my pity party and decided to just push through the wind and get the race done (even though I was running 13:00 miles. RUNNING. Not running/walking. RUNNING). At mile 25, the 4:45 pace group rolled up on me and I got a burst of energy and ended up pushing as hard as I could for the last 1.2 miles.
Downhill finish FTW
I finished the race 4:46:49. Not what I was hoping for, but, let's be honest.... I had done the minimal amount of training. I needed PERFECT race conditions to be able to hit my goal. And that's just not going to happen in a Spring race.
So, that was my race experience.
Now for the nuts and bolts of Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon...
The course was... meh. It wasn't particularly striking or beautiful or ugly. It just was.
The spectators were AMAZING. The city really gets out and supports the race and that was really fun.
The volunteers were AWESOME.
The water stops were PERFECT and PLENTIFUL. I was nervous that there would be too long of gaps between water stops, but they were perfectly laid out. On the marathon course, towards the end, they even split the water stops up, so that you'd go through one and get your water and gatorade and then about 400 meters down the road, there would be ANOTHER one. Doubling up like that made a huge difference for me, I think. I could take small sips at each and stay hydrated without getting that sloshy water belly feeling. A+++++++++++ on the water stops.
Swag was good. You got a shirt (the same shirt no matter the distance) at the expo, and then when you finished you got a shirt that was race specific. (As long as you KNEW you were getting another shirt and saw the signage and went over and got one after the race, like I did. The KoB missed all that, apparently).
Overall, I recommend the race. Not for its beauty or even the course. But, for it's purpose and it was really well managed.