“It's been emotional watching the Boston runners,” Watkins said. “One lady drove in from Wisconsin. One lady drove in yesterday from Dallas. Some from Boston. That they had the courage to come run another race, I give them a lot of credit.
“I think they've been touched by the hospitality of the people.”
In only its 13th year, the Memorial Marathon has established itself as a destination race. The reasons were on display all around the course Sunday.
Near Gorilla Hill, the difficult stretch of the course on Shartel near N.W. 40th Street, Molly McBride and her young daughter Lucy wore matching Tigger costumes and cheered on runners. Molly had an amplifier with a mic and her iPod.
“I've got the theme from ‘Chariots of Fire,' I've got ‘Eye of the Tiger,' I've got the ‘Rocky' song,” she said. “I'm not above bringing them out.”
Crowds packed the areas around the finish line, too.
The weather was no doubt a draw. For the first time in three years, the marathon was run under clear and warm conditions. The past two years have been chilly and wet.
Norman resident Tara Light was a first-time marathoner two years ago.
“It was 40 degrees and hailed on us,” she said after finishing Sunday in 5:51:17. “I decided then that if I could finish that one that there wasn't anything that was going to stop me.”
That spirit of resiliency was all along the 26.2-mile course.
As he stood beyond the finish line, Cohen talked about that day in Boston two weeks ago. Since he was done with the race and long gone from the finish line when the bombs exploded, he felt in some ways that he wasn't any closer to what happened than if he'd been back home in Oklahoma.
“But it still affects all of us profoundly,” he said.
That made running the Memorial Marathon all the more important.
“It was difficult running two marathons in two weeks,” Cohen said. “Even though I am exhausted, I'm really pleased that I've been able to bring these two events together in my life.”