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OKC Memorial Marathon: Why Jenni Carlson is running

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has been run 14 times.

I’ve covered 13 of them.

Not sure what happened that one year that I didn’t cover the event — clearly, I was slacking — but the marathon has become a regular part of my schedule. And pretty much every time, it becomes one of the most moving experiences of my year.

The best part is the finish line. I’m sure it’s the case at any marathon, but the emotion at the finish line is unlike anything in sport. You see smiles. You see tears. You see people who dance. You see people who collapse. It’s really an amazing scene.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood at the finish line and thought to myself, “I should do this.”

I also can’t tell you how many times I did an internet search for a training schedule and said, “There’s no way I have time for this.”

I know that you don’t have to train a ton to do a marathon. I have seen lots of people who aren’t great runners who essentially will themselves to go 26.2 miles. But I’ve always thought that if I was going to run a full marathon or even a half marathon, I wanted to be somewhat prepared. I never thought I had the time to put in the preparation.

Until now.

A few weeks ago, I saw something on Facebook or Twitter, I can’t remember which, from RunHers. This is a local running group for women, and it wrote a bit about the Memorial Marathon, how this is the 20th anniversary of the bombing and how the group will have 16- and 12-week training plans for half-marathon runners. The 16-week plan would be for beginners. The 12-week plan would be for more experienced runners.

As I read, three things hit me:

1. The 20th anniversary of the bombing. I was aware of this April being a milestone for that event — we have done some talking and planning here in the newsroom about how we plan to cover the 20th anniversary — but I really hadn’t thought about it in terms of the Memorial Marathon. The marathon is the biggest fundraiser for the memorial, and I know what a significant monument the grounds and the museum is for this city and state. Even though I’m not a native Oklahoman, this has become home. I feel that the bombing has become part of my history, and the memorial holds a special place in my heart. This will be a significant time for all of us who feel strong ties to the bombing and the memorial.

2. The 12-week training plan. This is the training program that I would be on because I am not a beginning runner. Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not a good runner, but I’m not a beginning runner. I’ve been doing anywhere from 3 to 5 miles four or five times a week for the past five or six years. I’ve logged some miles, and that means that I can do the half-marathon training in 12 weeks. That’s not a ton. That’s doable. Yes, there are some long runs on there. Or at least they seem long now. Nine miles. Ten miles. Eleven miles. But all in all, the length of the training and the length of the runs didn’t seem unmanageable. A challenge? Yes. An impossibility? No.

3. I need to run in the Memorial.

So, this week, I am starting the 12-week training schedule. Three miles Monday. Three miles Tuesday. Four miles Thursday. Four miles Saturday.

Nothing too crazy.

My plan is to run Saturday with the RunHers group. The group does training runs that are open to anyone and meets this week at 7 a.m. at the Panera Bread at 15th and Bryant in Edmond.

Saturdays are the longest runs in the training, and there are several options for training groups in Oklahoma City. I plan to do some Saturday runs with RunHers and some with the Oklahoma City Landrunners. Both do the training runs free of charge, and with water stops along the routes, they are safer alternatives to running solo.

I hope to be sharing my plans here on the blog, so you can join me if you’re interested.

I will also be blogging regularly in the next few weeks about different issues and topics related to running. I have enlisted the help of Amy (Petty) Downs. She is the perfect person to be my expert voice in this. She didn’t start out as a runner, but she knows a lot about it. She has done several distance events. She is a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing. And she is funny as all get out.

I wrote about her several years ago — you can read that by clicking here — but she will be answering my questions.

And yours, too. If you have questions about running, let me know. Anything is on the table. Shoes. Hydration. Apparel. Diet. Amy has already told me that she is an expert in chaffing — I believe she called herself the chaffing queen — so that should give you an indication of how open, honest and frankly, fun this will be.

I have no idea where this journey will lead. What the training will be like. What the race will be like. How I’ll feel before, during and after. But here’s what I do know about running the Memorial Marathon.

It’s time.

We've put together a calendar with some options. To give it a look, click here.

Red Coyote has a training program for the marathon and half marathon. Contact the store at 405.840.0033 or go to for information about how you might get involved.

Want your training group included on our calendar, please email and we’ll get you added.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›