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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

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.”

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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