OKC Memorial Marathon: Don't worry about bringing up the rear -- the Last Place Unicorns have that covered
They want no one in the half-marathon field to cross the finish line after them. They intend to bring up the rear, and in the process, they plan to encourage anyone who might be struggling to finish.
"People can join us," Driskill said. "We'll be at the back if they want to look for us. We'll be easy to spot."
They'll be the ones in the unicorn costumes.
Meet the Last Place Unicorns.
What started as a goofy lark a year ago has become a mission for Driskill and Bach. While the Memorial Marathon has many solemn and wonderful traditions -- from 168 seconds of silence before the race to runners leaving their medals on the chairs at the memorial -- the Last Place Unicorns rank with the eclectic nature of Gorilla Hill.
The Unicorns even have a Facebook page.
Driskill and Bach didn't intend for any of this to happen when they showed up to the race last year in unicorn costumes.
"We were just looking to wear something stupid," Bach said, laughing.
Both Driskill and Bach are experienced runners. She has done more than 30 marathons, and just a few weeks ago, he did a half marathon in right about 2 hours.
But a few weeks before the Memorial Marathon last year, the friends realized they hadn't trained like they wanted for the marathon. They decided not only to drop back to the half marathon but also to have fun on race day. They'd wear costumes. They'd take their time. They'd accept any food or drink offered to them along the way, including booze.
After looking for costume ideas, Bach threw out the idea of unicorns.
"Those are popular, right?" he asked Driskill.
"I have a unicorn costume already," she said.
That -- and a $30 unicorn costume Bach found for himself on Amazon -- sealed the deal. The day of the race, Bach's wife, Elizabeth, drove him to the start line. They had to open the sunroof so his horn wouldn't get crushed.
Yes, but Driskill and Bach had a blast. They took tons of photos. They posed with lots of other runners. They relished every moment.
But after stopping to use the bathroom around Mile 9, they were surprised to see a police car approaching.
"We've been looking for you!" the officers told them.
Driskill and Bach froze.
"Do you know what place you're in?" the officers said.
"You're in last."
The patrol car was bringing up the rear, watching for stray runners and keeping track of what parts of the course had been emptied, and the officers knew the people in the unicorn costumes were the last ones.
Driskill and Bach still laugh about that.
"Think of all the police on the radios -- 'Have you seen the unicorns?'" he said.
But not long after becoming the Last Place Unicorns, Driskill and Bach had an encounter that gave purpose to their wackiness. They came up behind a woman walking slowly, talking on her cell phone and crying. She was talking about quitting.
"I just know I'm going to be in last place," Driskill and Bach heard her say.
The Unicorns dropped back a bit and got serious.
"We can't let this woman be in last place," they said. "Let's go run with her."
The woman's name was Holly Scott, and over the next few miles, the Unicorns learned she had dropped 30 pounds in only a few months. She had improved her diet and started running a bit, but she but had never really done a race of any distance.
The Guthrie resident signed up for the half marathon to challenge herself and kickstart her weight-loss journey.
"I was determined to finish," Scott said this week, "but I honestly couldn't have finished without them."
Driskill and Bach encouraged her every step of the way. When Scott wanted to call it quits, they told her she couldn't stop, that she had already come so far and was getting so close.
The Unicorns helped her finish what she started.
"I don't think they'll ever know how much of an impact they made on me," said Scott, who has now lost 100 pounds and routinely uses her half-marathon finish as inspiration when times get tough. "They look funny from the outside, but on the inside, they really want to help people.
"I hope to see them again this year, hopefully to pass them."
Yes, Scott is running the half marathon again, and while Driskill and Bach don't plan to see her at the back of the pack, they know there will be someone who needs their help. They have needed help in races they've run, and they see this as their opportunity to pay it forward. Of course, their help never wore a unicorn costume and came armed with glitter tubes.
"Please be warned," the Last Place Unicorns wrote on their Facebook page, "we will obnoxiously cheer for you, tell everyone how awesome you are and leave a glittery residue behind."
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.