On Saturday night, Barry Switzer was on the sidelines for Thunder-Grizzlies Game 4 in Memphis.
And there were doubts that the legendary OU football coach would make it back for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. But Switzer was there Sunday, along with current Sooner coach Bob Stoops, greeting the marathon runners with medals and posing for pictures.
Following the Thunder’s 92-89 overtime win over the Grizzlies, Switzer hopped on a private plane to get back for Sunday’s festivities.
“I had this commitment,” Switzer said. “I was here last year. I saw what these people did — to come from all over the world. I think it’s a wonderful venue and I’m glad it’s in Oklahoma City.”
Switzer said he didn’t get home to Norman until about 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
“We played horrible. It was terrible — ugliest game I’ve ever seen two teams play against each other,” Switzer joked about the Thunder. “But we won, and that’s what counts. We’ve got it (the series) even now, and now it’s left up to us to prove we’re the better team in the next three.”
INCLEMENT WEATHER PUSHES RACES BACK
The start of the races was delayed nearly two hours by severe weather.
With a line of thunderstorms producing lightning, hail and high winds approaching the Oklahoma City area as the 6:30 a.m. start neared, race officials decided to push back the start 30 minutes. Several more delays followed as the weather lingered.
Runners sheltered in a variety of areas around downtown, including First Church where runners packed the sanctuary, many going to their knees in prayer.
The weather actually pushed the race dangerously close to being canceled. Race officials have a policy of starting by 8 a.m. That is to avoid the heat of the day, when runner safety could be put at risk, and because road closures for the race could only be maintained by the city for so long.
But Oklahoma City National Memorial executive director Kari Watkins said that race officials worked with city officials and weather experts to determine that the must-start deadline could be adjusted, and the race was allowed to continue. The race began at 8:20 a.m., its latest start in its 14-year history.
ROBBINS PERSEVERES, WINS HALF MARATHON
The near two-hour delay to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon nearly deterred Brianne Robbins.
But once the race started, Robbins pushed through en route to winning the women’s half marathon with a time of 1:28:03.
“Before the race I was really discouraged because of the weather,” she said. “I was not really wanting to run it but once we started I kept running. I didn’t know I was the first woman until Mile 9. I just tried to run as fast as I could. I felt a little sick, but kept going.”
Robbins, who is from Flower Mound, Texas, is currently a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma, where she is studying psychology.
Sunday marked her second half marathon, but first time winning. Last year, she placed second in the event, just months after picking up training for the event.
“My boyfriend’s dad decided to run 100 miles and so we started training last year at the Tulsa color run and I just fell in love with it,” she said.
Now, the next step is training for the full marathon, which she said could be the goal for next year.
“That’s my next step,” Robbins said.
DOWNARD ANCHORS RELAY WINNER
Scott Downard had run the marathon multiple times before, finishing as high as second.
Sunday, though, he anchored the winning relay team, Team OK, to a first-place finish with a time of 2:28:45.
“I actually really think the relay is a fun deal,” he said. “I feel like you get to mesh with more of the race.”
Downard was joined on the team by Scott Smith, Connor Wann and Amanda Goetschius.
Downard raced the final leg and survived the rising temperatures and humidity, which were factors in him choosing to do the relay instead of the individual marathon.
“I’ve gotten second and I’ve gotten third twice,” he said. “I don’t think this year was going to be the year either. These aren’t quite my conditions. Some guys aren’t affected in the humidity and stuff, but I was hurting a little bit at the end.”
2014 MARATHON SETS NEW NUMBERS RECORD
Not even the weather could deter record numbers for running in the Memorial Marathon.
Race liaison Mark Bravo said that the total race numbers were within 100 of a record 26,200 participants at the start of the race.
“The stick-to-itiveness shown truly spoke to everything that this race is about,” Bravo said. “From the race committee, to the volunteers, to the athletes out here, they stayed the course and it speaks to the entire cause of this race, which is resilience. The numbers speak to that.”
TEMPERATURES CATCH RUNNERS
Inclement weather pushed back the start of the Memorial Marathon nearly two hours. The result was a warmer back end of the race.
Based on the conditions and the late start, there was little to no chance of marathon winner Jason Cook breaking the race record on Sunday. That record (2:20) was set 10 years ago by Conor Holt, who’s the current track and cross country coach at Oklahoma City University.
Two of Holt’s OCU runners finished 1-2 in the half marathon, and the coach was proud considering the heat and the delayed start. Holt said he set the record in 2004 in perfect 60 degree weather with no wind.
“And it started at 6:30. That makes a difference.” Holt said. “The really good ones plan their meals out between 90 minutes to an hour before you race. With the putbacks, the race didn’t start until 8:20, so that’s rough going — when you have everything planned out and something happens.”
WRONG TURN NIXES WOULD-BE RECORD
Even before he crossed the finish line, you could see the frustration on Glenn Isaac Fretz’s face.
The Stella, Missouri, native — who is legally blind — was the first wheelchair participant to finish the half marathon Sunday. And with the help of cyclist guide Joe Garcez, Fretz did so in blazing time.
So why was he frustrated? Fretz was entered for the full marathon, not the half. A mix up on the course put Fretz and Garcez on the wrong path.
“We got there so fast, I don’t think the course marshals were expecting us, so they accidentally sent us down the half marathon,” said Garcez, who estimated he and Fretz were about 3-4 miles ahead of everyone else. “I guess they figured only the half marathon people could be down there that fast.
“When we were coming back down through Bricktown, I was like ‘yeah, I think we’re on the wrong side.’”
Fretz, who was going for a course record in the marathon, was disappointed, but it won’t keep him from returning to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for a sixth time next year.
What’s scary is Fretz and Garcez went 13.1 miles in a little under an hour despite making at least three stops during the race. Who knows what their time would have been without delays?
The marathon record should fall next year. Fretz was confident of that.
“I’ll try again next year and I hope they’re ready, because I’m gonna bring it,” Fretz said.
ONE-HUNDRED AND SIXTY-EIGHT POUNDS
That’s one pound for each person that died in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. When you saw those “168” shirts at the Memorial Marathon and the people wearing them, the labor on their faces was indicative of the weight on their backs.
For the past three Memorial Marathons, every “168” runner — about 10 in total at Sunday’s race — has worn a weighted pack in his or her respective race, be it the 5K, half marathon or the marathon. The 168 pounds is distributed among the runners.
Andrea Amos of Edmond wore a 25-pound pack on her back during the 5K. It didn’t seem too heavy by the end.
“It is hard running with weight on your back, but it also helps you remember the people that died,” said Amos, who’s in her first year with the group. “I think that’s what the important part is. The weight on your back is just that second reminder why you’re running.”
SETTING THE PACE
When Blake Middleton of Tulsa and Trevor Zimmerman of Edmond started their half marathon on Sunday, they were just regular guys.
But by the end of the race, more than a few fellow runners had stopped by to pat them on the back as if they were half marathon heroes.
They kind of were. They were the pace setters, taking turns holding a sign on a stick that read “1:45.”
“This year, I just wanted to give back after four years of participating and getting all the support from the volunteers,” said Middleton, who was in his first year as a pace setter, as was Zimmerman. “It was a little windy, a little humid today, but we were able to get in a little under our pace, so it was a good time.”
Throughout the race you’ll see various runners carrying signs that read what pace they’re running at. These volunteers serve as motivation to the people around them, and constant reminders that their goal is right there in plain sight.
“This was a pretty good pace for us. We were able to encourage everyone around us and keep the camaraderie high,” Middleton said.
RUN THROUGH THE TAPE … OR SIT
Most runners sprint through the finish line. Michael Hawley didn’t on Sunday.
Instead, the 38-year-old Dallas resident sat down in front of the finish line of the half marathon and waited … and waited some more … then finally got up and crossed.
His time: 1 hour, 59 seconds.
“I figured if I’m going to make it in under two hours, let’s make it dramatic and beat the buzzer by a second,” Hawley said.
The Memorial Marathon was Hawley’s third half marathon in eight days and his 15th of 2014. The day before Sunday’s race, Hawley finished a half marathon in Nashville, Tenn., in 1:45.
“Got in around 11 o’clock last night, had an early wake-up call,” Hawley said of his travels.
In April alone, Hawley had run in San Francisco; Raleigh, N.C.; Louisville, Ky.; Nashville and Oklahoma City.
MEMORIAL MARRIAGE PROPOSALS
Erin Taylor was short of breath after running her half marathon.
It wasn’t just from the 13.1 either. Her boyfriend, Steve Schmidt, dropped down on one knee and proposed just a few yards after the couple crossed the finish line.
Schmidt had the ring wrapped up in a napkin, then tucked into a pouch around his waist the entire race.
“I kept checking it,” Schmidt said of the pouch. “I had it on (this side) and the zipper is over here, so I knew I had it.”
Schmidt wasn’t as nervous about dropping the ring as he was about the weather potentially messing up his plans. The couple came all the way from Amarillo, Texas, to run the half marathon.
“If we don’t run at all, what am I gonna do?” Schmidt said. “And the plan worked.”
“You did so good,” Taylor said, a little short of breath but smiling at her now-fiance.
Schmidt wasn’t the only one to pop the question Sunday.
Ruben Alcala, 27, of Houston, Texas completed his first half-marathon then waited 55 minutes for his girlfriend, Beckey Eaton, 28, of Oklahoma City to cross the finish line in the half.
Just moments after she did, he got on one knee and proposed to her in front of 14 family and friends.
“We actually met last year here running,” Alcala said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to do it.”
She also said yes.
FIREFIGHTERS GEAR UP
Chance Green, 22, and Brady Lynch, 18, are just a few weeks away from becoming full-fledged firefighters. One of their last activities in Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center’s Fire Academy was putting on the full suit to run the half marathon.
Other than the boots (the firefighters opt for tennis shoes), Green and Lynch were two of numerous runners decked out in full firefighting gear. Hat. Jacket. Pants. Oxygen tank. The whole deal.
Green said the gear weighs about 60 pounds altogether.
“It’s very taxing,” Green said. “The first few miles seem kinda tough, but then you just get in a flow. You just look at the pavement and go.”
Green said he enjoyed the experience and would do it again, but by the finish he and Lynch were ripping off the suits ASAP. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have fun.
“I’ll do it until I can’t do it anymore,” Lynch said. “Being out here in the public and having everyone’s support, it motivates you. You don’t want to quit for them. You want to better yourself for them.”