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OKC Memorial Marathon: What I learned

You learn a lot when you’re running a half marathon for the first time.

I sure did Sunday morning. The half at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was my first, and even more, it was the farthest I’d ever run at one time. Ever. The longest training run that I did was a little over 10 miles, so 13.1 miles was an entirely new experience.

Here’s a few things I learned:

* There are hills where you least expect them: I knew all about the Walnut Street Bridge coming north out of Bricktown and the famed Gorilla Hill around NW 38th and Shartel. They were bears, as advertised, but hey, did you know that Classen goes at a gradual but steady incline from NW 50th until about NW 23rd? Yep. It does. And it stinks. Completely and totally stinks. I mean, I’m not going to boycott Classen because of it or anything — Grand House, Super Cao Nguyen and Le’s Sandwiches are there, fercryinoutloud! — but geez, a gradual but steady incline at Mile 8 of a half? Brutal.

* Pretzels are difficult to eat while running: So, Dr. Tom Coniglione, the marathon’s medical director, started making sure the water and food stops had pretzels a few years back. The salt helps you retain water, which you need for distance running. And since I’m a big fan of Dr. Tom’s — I had the honor of writing a big story about him before last year’s marathon — I took the pretzels. But eating the first one, I realized how hard it is to chew pretzels that become yeasty and gummy in your mouth while running. Putting the whole thing in my mouth was probably a bad way to start. Next time around? Small bites.

* People cheering along the route really help: There were all sorts of folks all along the course. Some were there because they knew someone running. Others were there because the course came right through their neighborhood. But regardless of the reason, I have one thing to say if you were one of those people Sunday — thank you! I can’t explain it, but cheers really are like super powers to runners.

* And people cheering along the route with funny signs really, really help: I can’t tell you how many times I found myself laughing out loud because of the signs that people had out. “You’re running better than the federal government.” “This sounded like a good idea four months ago.” “13.1 miles: You’re only half crazy.” “Lookin’ good. Call me?” And then there were the pee and poo signs. Yes, pee and poo is a big deal to runners, but pretty much every sign that had to do with either topic had me laughing. I had no idea I had the sense of humor of a sixth grade boy. Sigh.

* Remembering the reason we run this race was a huge boost: I know there are light-pole signs all along the course with the names of the victims of the Murrah Building bombing. But I have to admit, I’m a look-down runner. I can be clumsy, so I tend to look down to make sure I don’t trip over anything. And that means, I really didn’t see any of those signs. But there were other reminders everywhere. On other runners who had pinned “Running In Honor Of” signs on their backs. On homemade signs along the course. What an inspiration.

* People are neat: I can’t tell you how many times I saw things that made me realize how cool humanity can be. I ran by a guy with white hair who had a T-shirt celebrating that he’d run a marathon in all 50 states — and had achieved the feat three times. Amazing. Between Mile 5 and 6, Allegiance Credit Union had a water stop, and leading up to the stop, the folks there had made signs just for me. Five or six of them. My running muse Amy Downs is the chief operating officer at the credit union, so I know she had a lot to do with their support, but I seriously cannot thank all of Allegiance enough! (And I would’ve stopped to thank them as I ran past, but I was afraid I would end up hugging every one of their necks and wouldn’t get my legs going again! So, thank you, thank you, thank you!) A couple of my dear friends were waiting with my hubs and little one around 20th and Classen — and they had signs, too. Wow.

* The finish line made it worth it: I won’t lie — I had a three- or four-mile stretch where I was truly questioning my sanity. My legs felt heavy. My stomach felt worse. But when I turned off NW 13th onto Broadway, I forgot about all of that. Both sides of Broadway are packed for the last three or four blocks of the course. It is amazing to run through that tunnel of humanity. Many years, I’ve covered the race and stood on the other side of the finish line. But to run across it this year? I’ve not experienced anything else like it.

* I will never run a marathon: I can’t tell you how many times I gave myself a pep talk by saying, “Well, at least I’m not running the full!” Yikes. To each and every one of you who ran the full marathon, my hat is off to you. But I won’t be joining you any time soon. Like the sign said, I’m only half crazy.


One last thing, I have one more blog about my half marathon experience that I want to write, but it’s emotional, and I don’t think I’m in any shape today to write anything emotional. I will post it in the coming day or so.



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 ›