Distance running has been called lots of things.
Difficult. Admirable. Crazy.
But in these days since the Boston Marathon bombings, running has become something else — an act of defiance.
“There's a real strong sense among runners that we're not going to let that event stop us from doing what we do,” Bill Snipes said.
The man who coordinates marathon training for the Oklahoma City Landrunners running club has witnessed the change. Yes, he has heard of security worries and safety concerns from runners since those blasts rocked the running world, but that fear doesn't hold sway.
“They're just not going to let that get in their way,” Snipes said, “and they're certainly not going to let a couple of terrorists — domestic or foreign or whoever — stop them.”
On the weekend of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, we will see that defiance on our city streets. Upward of 25,000 men, women and children will compete in the various races, and while each of them will run for a different reason, in the first major American marathon since the Boston bombings, many will run to show that they can't be stopped.
Not by fears.
Not by bombs.
Not by anything.
Running has never before been framed this way, and there's evidence that it is changing the way runners, both old and new, see the sport.
Maurice Lee III has noticed as much as he surfs the web. The Landrunners' vice president frequents several running pages on Facebook, and in the past week and a half, he's felt the tenor change.
“There's a lot of defiance,” he said, “a lot of ‘I'm running for Boston' and ‘I'm more determined to run than ever.'”
Will it prompt runners to enter new races or attempt longer distances? Will it bring new people to running?
Will it create a bump for the sport?
“I wouldn't be surprised,” said Mark Bravo.
The Oklahoma City-based running coach who does TV commentary during the Memorial Marathon was talking to a radio executive earlier this week. The man told Bravo that he'd recently lost 25 pounds and was thinking about doing more running.
What happened in Boston struck a chord with him.
“I don't know why,” the exec told Bravo, “but the day after Boston, I went to the website to see what the qualifying time was for Boston.”
Distance running went through a huge boom back in the 1970s. When marathoner Frank Shorter won gold at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he created a craze. He inspired fellow Americans to attempt the 26.2-mile race.
It was the first time many Americans thought about such a thing.
The Boston bombings have brought running back into the public conscience. The impact of that and the growth it might bring might not be known for years.
But the running community has already been changed by what happened last week on Boylston Street. Runners are rallying, and nowhere is that more evident than Oklahoma City. Marathon participants this weekend are being encouraged to wear red socks to honor bombing victims in Boston in addition to green shoelaces to honor bombing victims in Oklahoma City.
Snipes senses an attitude of solidarity among runners. They are mindful of the people who were injured or killed in Boston.
“Everybody wants to do something,” Snipes said, “and runners, this is what we can do.”
Runners run, and now they are out to prove that neither bombs or terrorists nor fears or worries will stop them.
“It's kind of a thumb-in-your-eye kind of deal,” Snipes said.
The spirit of defiance now wears running shoes.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.