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Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon notebook: Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops stop by the finish line

Despite being in Memphis for Saturday night’s NBA Playoff game, Barry Switzer was there at the marathon Sunday, along with current Sooner coach Bob Stoops, greeting the marathon runners with medals and posing for pictures.
by Jenni Carlson and Jacob Unruh Published: April 27, 2014

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.

Continue reading this story on the...

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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