My 2011 OKC Memorial Marathon Experience.posted in Running on May 2, 2011
The day has came and went. I, as well as thousands of others, ran in the 2011 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Let me tell you a story about it.
The night before the race somewhat caught me off guard. As I sat at home preparing (read: staying up far too late looking at Reddit), I felt an interesting pang in my gut that generally has been reserved for other events in my life. It was that feeling you get when you have to do something important or seemingly important. It was dread, caution, and anticipation all wrapped up into one. It was the feeling of going on stage.
I was able, for the most part, to put that feeling aside. This would certainly be a different experience than crashing some cymbals or hitting the right note on a xylophone (things that I don’t disvalue in the least), but it was very interesting to see that the same nervousness would creep up for this race. It’s just running, after all. Or maybe I am just an overall nervous person. Who knows.
I awoke thirty minutes or so before my alarm was scheduled to go off at 4:30am. Having no desire or ability to go back asleep, I used this time to ruminate on the coming day, and also watch clips from the preceding night’s White House Correspondant’s Dinner (which I suggest). Having laid out my gear the night before, I threw on my black running shirt and shorts I’ve had since highschool, and headed downtown at 5:00am.
The forecast for the day included rain, but my drive to the starting line denied that fact until just a few blocks away. A few skattered droplets of water sprinkled on my windshield, but not enough to turn on the wipers. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad afterall. A sudden flash of lightning as my car pulled into a space said otherwise. The resulting thunder – less than seven seconds! – confirmed it: the morning would certainly be a soggy mess.
I had parked on the west side of the Civic Center, about five blocks away from the line. Following a number of other shivering runners, we collectively meandered towards four giant lights illuminating the low clouds. It started pouring by this point, with long raindrops falling through any sources of light. The masses sought shelter under anything they could find; I huddled with a group of people by a post office for a time, then moved to a much better location within a parking garage.
Large speakers ironically played U2’s Beautiful Day, and the announcer at the event soon informed us all that due to lightning the start of the race would be postponed by 30 minutes to 7am from 6:30. To make matters worse, cell phone reception seemed to drop to zero; at least for us AT&T customers, that is. I had friends that I needed to meet up with (they were going to hold my shoes), but could not find them among the crowd and had no good way to contact them. 21st century problems at their greatest. Just a few years ago we would probably have had to settle for planning ahead. Today I can not fathom such stone-aged methods.
Time was ticking down the start, and without having found my friends, I had to resort to stashing my shoes behind a pillar on the second story of the parking garage in hopes that no one would want a pair of two year old, soaking wet Vibrams. The mass of runners huddled around the starting area, packed so tight as to not allow any movement. I had inadvertently got caught in the 5k group off to the side of the main marathon runners. Their start time was a little later than the full and half folks, but I couldn’t move an inch, so I had to wait a bit before starting. Pushing my way through the crowd along with other halfers, we were able to get to the main street, and thus begin.
The streets through downtown OKC hummed with the subtle crinkling of plastic rain slickers and shouts of support from the sidelines. For a stretch of the first few miles, members of the OKC fire department marched alongside the runners. At this point everyone was still in high spirits, full of energy and excitement.
The first three miles for me where a piece of cake. That’s my normal run anyway. I weaved in and out of the crowds and set a a pace of about ten minutes a mile during this time. That time is certainly slower than my normal three mile time, but I attempted to pace myself better than normal, running for ten minutes and then walking one. It worked great. My only concern at that point was not getting in front of anyone when I would stop. I ended up walking leisurely next to the curb in the running water most of the time. It was great.
We passed by the capital building and double backed on honestly the only street I had previous worries about: 23rd Street. Of all the streets that I would assume to be full of old syringes and broken glass, it was this street. Whether my pre-conceived notions were wrong or the rain helped wash away, I don’t know, but I am pretty sure that I didn’t contract any interesting diseases on that stretch. It would turn out that the road just after this one would prove to be tho most challenging.
Old cement is awful. That about sums up the experience of the next few blocks. The cement itself was extremely porous feeling, or basically just rough. Just plain ol’ rough. I ended up getting up on the broken and undulating sidewalks. I had to dodge epic cracks, but it was much smoother. Cement like that is really the only downfall of running barefoot on city streets.
Besides the few streets we ran (ha) into that were like that, the rest of the run was smooth as far as cement was concerned. I ended up grabbing a good pace between miles three and nine. The ten minute run, one minute walk served my purposes well, and I never felt exhausted or out of breath. It being fourty degrees and raining helped ensure that none of us got too hot, and I think that really helped me keep pace at distances I had never done before. That is, until mile ten.
Oh mile ten, you salty cad. Mile ten was when I knew my body was starting to shut down. It did not really feel too happy about what it was doing, and for the first time that I can remember my thighs became solidified. I suppose that’s what they call “cramping.” And if that’s the case, then mile ten was when that started up in full swing. I was taking walking breaks every five minutes or so at this point, drinking at every stop, and eating anything that was handed out. It was a leisurely stroll by this point.
The longest leg of the half between mile eight and ten-and-a-half was on Classen Blvd., and most people had said that that leg would be the worst because it is just a long straightaway. Classen was nothing. I hardly even remember it compared to the rest of the race. My struggle, as soon as my legs started cramping, was immediately after Classen. The roads became rough again, and I probably blacked out at some point, but that was all good. Had I been completely lucent, the last few miles would have just been that much more difficult.
But then finally, after a couple of hours of running, came the finish line on Broadway. I expended what little energy I had left to sprint about ten feet across the finish line. Someone handed me a shiny metal and someone else handed me a shiny, plastic rain poncho. A man came up to me and asked if I had run the whole thing barefoot. I told him that I did, and I honestly don’t really remember what happened after that. There was food, and I ate like a pig for few moments. Carl’s Jr. was there handing out smooshed hamburgers that at the time tasted like the greatest hamburgers on earth.
The rain was still pouring down, and actually increased in intensity when I finished. I found that this was probably the best time to leave, the cold settling in my bones. After a nice respite in the parking garage to find my shoes (they were still there!), I walked the five blocks or so back to my car. As I was leaving, I passed some of the runners that were still on course just as it began to hail. I certainly felt bad for those folks. When I got home, I basically went straight to bed and then didn’t wake up until that night. It was awesome.
My official time was this: 2:42:52. I came in 443/513 in my division, 2440/2917 for males, and overall number 5487. I kept an overall pace of 12:26.
And here, by the way, are some pictures of me during the run.
As of this writing, the day later, I am certainly sore and stiff, and I have a few epic blisters on my feet, but being able to tell this story forever is totally worth it. We will see what happens next year, but that is a ways away, and I now need to heal.
Great job to anyone who ran in the race, whether you finished or not. It was a danp mess, but it was certainly a fun day.