A Run To Remember

From the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon website:

Our mission is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of those who were killed, and unite the world in hope. This is not just another marathon. It is a Run to Remember…and a race to show that we can each make a difference and change the world.

Yesterday I ran (well, mostly I walked) my seventeenth Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon with my running partner, Maverick. (That’s his nickname.) My personal record for a marathon is 3 hours 9 minutes, and since then I have rarely run over 5:00. Yesterday our time was 6:15. Our time. Maverick’s and mine. Neither one of us was properly trained, and both of us were nursing injuries. (By the middle of the race, Maverick’s back was seizing up.) We stayed together, and we finished.

So maybe we shouldn’t have “run.” Maybe we should have done the smart thing and let this year go by. I had run all 16 Memorial Marathons prior to this year, so I had a vested interest in finishing number 17. But Maverick didn’t. And most of the people around us yesterday didn’t either. But…

We didn’t run for us. We ran for 168 men, women, and children who died in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. These people will never run a marathon. They will never again feel the sun shine on their faces. They will never again have the rain soak their clothes. They will never again push through pain. They will never again feel the joy of a journey completed.

We didn’t run for us. We ran for the families who lost their husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. They will never again stand on the sidelines and cheer the ones they lost. They will never again feel pride as their loved ones accomplish a goal. They will never give or receive another hug or kiss from the one they lost. They will never get them back.

We didn’t run for us. We ran for the people who were fundamentally changed as survivors, rescue workers, and support people. They will never look at some things the same way again. They will never forget what they saw and heard that day. They will never be able to escape the fear and uncertainty that lurks in their shadows. They will never be the same.

We didn’t run for us. So it didn’t matter how hard it was. It didn’t matter that it rained, then shone, then rained, then shone, then rained horizontally, then shone, and so on. It didn’t matter that Maverick and I were at the back of the pack, getting passed by almost every age and body type you can imagine.

I have done this 17 times. I cry at the starting line during the 168 seconds of silence. I cry at the finish line when they put a medal around my neck and thank me for running. I’ve run a lot of other marathons, but this one is different.

It’s different because no matter where you are on the course, you can look up and see banners with the names of people who lost their lives that fateful morning. It’s different because no matter how badly you feel, you realize you are blessed to even be there, blessed to be able to run or walk, blessed to feel the sun or the rain (or both), and blessed to be surrounded by thousands of people who—if only for one day—are focused on doing something bigger than themselves.

Unlike many who were out there yesterday, I am very familiar with the feeling of being surrounded by others-oriented people. I am surrounded every day by people who are committed to making a difference and changing the world.

I am blessed every day.

Thank you.