OKC Marathon: Why big course changes will ripple in lots of areas
Changes to marathon courses are rare, and when they happen, they are usually small.
Oklahoma City is going big.
Major portions of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon course are being altered this year. Two weeks away from Marathon Day, runners and spectators alike need to know that many familiar stretches will remain, including Gorilla Hill, the State Capitol and Classen Boulevard. But the course will also go places it has never been before, including a southward shift.
Goodbye, Lake Hefner. Hello, Oklahoma River.
“We’ve gotten some pushback about why we’re changing, why we’re doing this,” Oklahoma City Memorial executive director Kari Watkins said. “The city is changing, so we’re trying to go with it.”
A major part of the city’s change is the development of Scissortail Park, sandwiched between downtown and the river. That vast green space is where the Memorial Marathon wants to eventually finish — Watkins added the race had outgrown its traditional finish in Automobile Alley — and moving the finish line half a mile or so to the southwest meant the course had to change.
With the park set for completion next year, the Memorial Marathon’s 20th anniversary, marathon organizers see this year as a transitional phase.
“I want to be clear — it will not be perfect,” Watkins said. “We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re guinea pigs, but we are dealing with a city that is changing and we’re trying to adapt and change with it.”
A course certifier will be on hand during the race looking for trouble spots on the revamped course. Race organizers will use that information along with feedback from runners to fix problems for 2020.
With all the alterations to the course, several changes have been made in an attempt to ease the transition.
WAVE START: Runners will still stage in corrals before the race based on their anticipated finishing times. But the corrals will now start in waves, allowing three to five minutes between the start of each corral.
“There’s a couple of tough pinch points on the course,” Watkins said, mentioning the turn onto SW 15th and the ramp onto 23rd Street from Lincoln.
A wave start, common in lots of big races, should help spread out runners.
TIME CUTOFF: Last year, the Memorial Marathon instituted a cutoff time at Mile 20. Reach that point by a certain time, or runners would be taken off the course and shuttled to the transit center so streets could re-open in a timely manner.
The cutoff will expand this year to include half marathoners.
With the wave start, the cutoff on the marathon course will be noon at Mile 20 while on the half marathon course it will be 10 a.m. at Mile 10.
PLACES TO WATCH: Many favorite spectator spots will remain, but with the course changes, some neighborhoods and areas accustomed to runners will be quiet on Marathon Day.
If you’re looking for a place to watch — and cheer — several cheer zones will be set up around the course. They will be at traditional hot spots, including the State Capitol, Edgemere Park and Classen Boulevard, but this year, the Official Marathon Cheer Zone at Perle Mesta Park is being added.
“It’ll be a fun place to hang out,” Watkins said.
REASONS TO RUN: The reason behind the Memorial Marathon remains the same — to honor those killed and injured in the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The names of the 168 killed are on banners that hang all along the marathon course.
Because many of those banners are in areas where the half-marathon course will no longer share, pictures of those killed are being added to the course where only half marathoners will run.
Here's a look at the runners who won the major races during the 2018 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon:
Men’s marathon: Nathan Chamer, Oklahoma City, 2:33:45
Chamer ran his first marathon a year ago in OKC. Won his first, too. The Kenyan native who is an intensive care unit nurse leapt over the finish-line tape.
Women’s marathon: Kristen Radcliff, Oklahoma City, 2:54:52
Radcliffe finished as runner-up to her friend Cat Lisle in 2017, but last year, the former standout at Forgan High and Oral Roberts University triumphed.
Men’s half marathon: Max McNeill, Oklahoma City, 1:11:09
Then a sophomore at Oklahoma City University, McNeill won the race for the second consecutive year. He used it to qualify for the NAIA Championships.
Women’s half marathon: Amanda Goetschius, Norman, 1:19:04
Also a back-to-back winner in the event, Goetschius beat out several running friends who she expected to bump her off the podium. She won by nearly 10 minutes.
DO YOU HAVE A MARATHON STORY?
The Oklahoman is looking for stories of people involved in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Doesn’t matter what distance you are running. You don’t even have to be a runner. If you are part of Marathon Day and have an interesting story — or know someone who does — we want to know. Email Jenni Carlson at email@example.com.
OKLAHOMA CITY MEMORIAL MARATHON
When: Sunday, April 28
What: Full marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, 5K, kids’ marathon
To register: Go to OKCMarathon.com
To volunteer: Go to OKCMarathon.com/volunteer