What started as an idea hatched during an early-morning run only a decade ago has become one of the county's premier marathons.
The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon celebrated its 10th anniversary last spring, attracting 22,000 participants and raising $750,000 for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
The numbers in its inaugural year?
Money raised: $50,000.
"If anything, I'm surprised by how far we've come this fast," Memorial Marathon President Thomas Hill said earlier this summer. "We believe we were given a vision, and I always believed this event could be world-class."
First, a bit about that vision.
In the spring of 2000, Hill and longtime running buddy Chet Collier were on a long training run for an out-of-town marathon. They had lots of time on their hands as they pounded out the miles, so they chatted about everything. Work. Family. Weather. The opening of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
The memorial had spurred talk around Oklahoma City about the city's future and its hopes to become a top-tier city. As the two businessmen talked about that, Hill became agitated about the fact their hometown didn't have a marathon, forcing runners like them to head out of state.
Oklahoma City, Hill lamented, needed a marathon.
His words stopped Collier in his tracks.
"If there is one," Collier said, "it should be for the memorial."
By the time the men finished their training run, they had most of the logistics planned. The starting line at the memorial. The 168 seconds of silence before the race, one second for every victim of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The banners with the names of those who died in the bombing that would line the course.
When Hill and Collier pitched their idea to the memorial foundation a couple months later, they made a personal promise to do everything first-class.
The promise has paid dividends; Bart Yasso, the chief running officer at Runner's World magazine, selected the Memorial Marathon as one of his dozen favorite races in 2004. The man known in the running world as the Mayor of Running listed Oklahoma City alongside Miami, Austin and Minneapolis, as well as Rome, Stockholm and Antarctica.
"I've always said that running a marathon ... is very emotional," Yasso said a couple years ago. "If you look at a race like Oklahoma City, they attach a whole other emotion to the emotional day."
His thumbs-up along with those from other runners has brought runners to the Memorial Marathon from all 50 states and more than a dozen foreign countries.
"Word-of-mouth really spreads in the running community," Yasso said. "Once you put on a great race, runners just boast about it nonstop."
So it is with the Memorial Marathon.
"They don't maybe even understand when they sign up ..." Hill said, "butï¿½they never leave here without being affected, impacted, changed."