Finding God in an Oklahoma City Garage
This morning I ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon. It’s part of a quest I am on this year to run 20 half marathons – nine of them in the remaining nine U.S. states I have not yet visited. This was an exponentially awesome decision on my part, because it crosses the things I love to do most, run and travel, with things that are good for my health and sprit, like staying fit, meeting new people and challenging myself.
As of today, I have run five races: F3 Lake in Chicago, Cruiz Tybee Half in Georgia, Gulf Coast Half in Gulf Shores Alabama, Tomoka Half in Ormond Beach Florida and the OKC Memorial. Each of these five races accompanied by extreme weather. Six degrees below zero and snowing for F3, unseasonably cold and raining for Tybee, Gulf Shores had a storm so bad it was cancelled (I did the run on my own later that day, and dammit, I am counting it), Florida was a chilly rainy run and OKC was delayed two hours while we waited out a storm. And it could be the endorphins talking, but I am actually starting to appreciate this and witness some pretty cool examples of our human spirit. Today was case in point.
It was a moving, meaningful day. It did not start out that way. In fact at about 1:30 am I was standing in the hall of my hotel room in my PJs half blind without my glasses yelling at “the kids” having the party down the hall SHUT. THE FUCK. UP! It was not one of my finer moments. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep last night. A few hours later, I woke up to a sizable storm rolling in, and walked down to the start at 5:45 am just watching it come. We all did.
What happens when you get 26,000 people together for the same purpose and in the course of advancing toward this purpose things do not go as planned? They start to talk to each other.
There we were, thousands of people in a parking garage for two hours with no cell phone service or Internet access. Some of us were cold; some wet, most tired, many were getting hungry. I met so many wonderful, kind people from near and far that I could not do our conversations justice here. An air force sergeant, who just found out she was pregnant as her husband shipped to Afghanistan, a wheat farmer who was incredibly grateful to see the rain after months of draught, a pair of friends training for the first Ironman who pumped me for tips and soaked up the encouragement. We were not grumpy. No one was angry about the delay, no complaints about the race organizers. The line to the women’s bathroom was all smiles, strangers huddling close together to help each other stay warm and dry.
And when announcer finally gave the go for us to head to the start the garage went up in cheers. And when the firefighters graced us with an unplanned pass and review, thunderous applause, whistles and thank yous! went out. And when the national anthem began, all us – still in the garage – sang. It echoed so sweetly, I found myself in tears, just overwhelmed with the power of it, the God in it.
The Oklahoma Memorial Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K are run each year in remembrance of the Oklahoma City Bombing, the victims, their loved ones, the heroes – but also to remember what happened in response. People rose to the occasion. They donated goods and blood and time and money. They prayed together and stood together and cried together. The Memorial Museum was open free to runners this afternoon after the race, and as I wandered through, was moved by the stories of how the City and the Nation came together that day and the days that followed. They said it was “a new level of caring” that has come to be known as The Oklahoma Standard.
Something called ‘the Oklahoma Standard’ became known throughout the world. It means resilience in the face of adversity. It means a strength and compassion that will not be defeated.— Brad Henry
Oklahoma Standard indeed. And all we had to deal with this morning was a little rain.
Note: for my race-junky friends this is a good one, I can see why it was voted of the 12 ‘must-run’ marathons in the world by Runner’s World magazine. Lots of crowd support, incredibly well organized, super easy to get to the start despite the race size, great post race food, beautiful course. It’s not flat. It’s not super hilly, but it is definitely not flat.