Adam Cohen's eyes were red after he crossed the finish line at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Hard to tell if it was from sweat or emotion.
Maybe a little of both.
He ran the Boston Marathon two weeks ago and had long since finished his race when bombs exploded at the finish line. The Norman resident was planning to run Oklahoma City before the bombing.
“But then in light of what happened in Boston,” he said, “it really strengthened my resolve.”
What happened in Boston added another layer of meaning to a race already steeped with significance. As one of the first major marathons in the United States since the bombings, Oklahoma City's race became a day to remember not only the 168 victims of the Murrah Building bombing but also those killed and injured in Boston.
Many of the nearly 25,000 runners wore tributes to Boston. There were lots of Red Sox hats and shirts. There were a few Bruins and Celtics shirts. There were even a few specially made shirts.
“Running for OKC. Running for Boston. Running for Peace,” one read.
“Yankee fan running for Boston,” another said.
But the most obvious Boston tributes were the red socks. Wearing red socks in honor of the Boston victims was an idea hatched by Oklahoma City resident Andrea Miles, and it caught fire.
Among those wearing red socks was women's marathon race winner McKale Davis, who finished in 2:53:30. Hers were pulled all the way up to her knees.
She said she had a ton of friends who were running Boston two weeks ago, but she wore red socks more because of her mother.
“My mom is known ... as the best spectator in Oklahoma,” said Davis, a Fairfax native who is soon to receive her Ph.D. from Oklahoma State. “(The finish line) is where she would've been. That hit me pretty hard.”
Because of the Boston bombings, security was beefed up for the Memorial Marathon. Race officials reported no problems on the course.
The same could be said for much of the day.
“Our numbers are as high as they've ever been,” Oklahoma City National Memorial executive director Kari Watkins said.
All told, there were 24,752 runners from 47 states.
That total included 10 runners who were on the Boston Marathon course when the bombs exploded and couldn't finish the race. They were allowed to run Oklahoma City for free.
“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.”