“We do this to remember the 168,” he said. “But this year we also did it in memory of Edmond's fire captain.”
Bennett said Cpt. John Werhun died from cancer the day before and the department all wore patches in his honor.
YOUNG: ‘NOT LETTING EVIL WIN'
Keri Young, 27 of Oklahoma City, was in third grade when the Murrah bombing happened.
After 18 years, a marriage to her husband Royce and a job as a special education teacher at Overholser Elementary in the Putnam City district, Young began to think a lot more about the bombings.
Those children that died were close to her age. They would never have their first job. Never say “I do” on their wedding day. That brought tears to her eyes.
So she picked Ashley Eckles, who was age 4 when she was killed in the bombing.
“I don't know anything about her,” Young said. “I just knew I had to run for her.”
The OKC Memorial run was her first marathon ever. She ran to remember Eckles and those killed in Boston Marathon bombings.
“Why do we run this?” Young said. “Because of a bombing. I'm not going to let another bombing detour me. It's the whole ‘not letting evil win.'”
RUN FORREST, RUN
When Jeff Ellwanger found out he'd need to cut his beard by early May, he decided to make the most of it.
Ellwanger, from Omaha, Neb., ran the marathon with his long, scraggly beard, a track jacket and a “Bubba Gump Shrimp” hat.
“My sister's getting married next week and since she told me I couldn't have a beard for her wedding, I figured I'd do it,” Ellwanger said. “She still wasn't happy about it. My face is going to be pasty white for her wedding.”
He heard plenty of people on the course shouting “Run Forrest, Run,” as he passed.
“It was all positive,” Ellwanger said. “Everybody had fun with it and were cheering me on.”
It's the second of three marathons Ellwanger has scheduled in three weeks. He ran in Olathe, Kan., last week and will run in Lincoln, Neb., next week.
“Why not?” Ellwanger said of why he decided to run three marathons in three weeks.
One group of runners that got together in the Norman area kept a tradition going Sunday.
Julie Stidolph became the fourth — and final — of the group to wear a bridal veil with a tank top reading “Runaway Bride” while running.
Most of the others worse the outfit on their wedding day but because of scheduling issues, it worked out better for Stidolph to wear it in Sunday's race.
She ran the half marathon with Kate McDonald. McDonald wore the same outfit in January 2012 before she married.
“We used to run together in Norman and we wanted to do something to keep us together, even when we started spreading out everywhere,” Stidolph said.
She'll be married July 19 in Norman. Her fiancé, David Jonsson, missed the race. Jonsson was flying to Oklahoma from his native Sweden.
The original group is all married now but Stidolph said the outfit could break out again.
“We need to start a bigger group,” she said. “So if you want to get married, come join our group and run with us.”
INJURY DOESN'T STOP GREENE
Gena Greene wasn't about to let an injury derail her plans to run the marathon.
Greene suffered a torn Achilles tendon less than a month ago but stayed in the race and made it through 26.2 miles.
“I've got it taped, wrapped, I've got a patch on it and a tendinitis support on it,” Greene said. “I did everything I could.”
Greene, who is from Georgia but whose husband is station at Fort Sill, didn't want to back out after talking her friend, Monifa Nixon, into training and coming from Atlanta to run with her.
“Once I got her to agree to do it, I was locked in,” Greene said. “People get hurt all the time and they get through it and that's what I had to do.”
COUPLE QUALIFIES FOR BOSTON
With about 12 miles to go, Meredith Hein didn't think she'd make it through her first marathon.
“I thought I might die,” Hein said.
But she wasn't about to quit.
“Knowing what this race is for — the memories of those people who died in the bombing here and obviously what happened in Boston last week provided some more motivation,” Hein said.
Hein, who's from Columbus, Ohio, ran the race with her husband Dave.
Both are in the Air Force, with Dave stationed at Tinker and Meredith at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.
“Our job is to support and defend, and we wanted to be a part of this race,” she said.
They're also hoping to run in Boston next year.
Both turned in times that were good enough to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
“Our deal is if we both make Boston that we're going to run,” Meredith said.
SCOT RUNS IN KILT
Graham Andrew didn't expect to run in a half marathon when he came to Oklahoma from his home in Glasgow, Scotland, for work.
But when he got here for his two-week trip, a friend talked him into giving the event a try.
So Andrew ran the 13.1 miles in a kilt.
“It's a cheap tourist kilt, but it worked,” Andrew said. “It's not the most comfortable thing to run in though. It kept turning around on me, and I had to keep adjusting it. As a Scotsman, I couldn't let that go.”
Andrew will return to Scotland at the end of the week.
“By which time hopefully I should be able to sit on a flight for that long,” Andrew said.
‘NEED PEOPLE TO CHEER FOR ME'
Tara Light knows she's never going to be one of the fastest runners on the course.
So Light wanted to be one of the most well-dressed.
Light, from Norman, made a silver and black skirt to run during the marathon and wore long red socks in honor of the Boston Marathon victims.
“I've been told I'm the best-dressed one out there,” Light said. “I'm really slow so I need people to cheer for me anyway and that seemed like a good way to do that.”
Light was one of the runners to start the marathon early, starting around 4:30 a.m., two hours before the formal start.
“I did the early start because I'm a turtle and there were still people out there cheering for us from the start,” Light said. “I never felt like we weren't part of the ‘real' race even though we started early.”
LAST YEAR'S CHAMP WON SATURDAY
Last year's female marathon champion, Camille Herron of Oklahoma City, was at the finish line Sunday just to cheer for her friends.
Herron, the course record holder, skipped the Memorial Marathon this year because she won a marathon in Illinois on Saturday.
“I am trying to win a marathon in every state,” she said.
Thus far, she has won nine marathons in six states.
CHANGE OF HEART
After suffering a foot injury, Samantha Bennett of Edmond initially decided to defer her marathon entry until next year.
But when Bennett recovered well enough to win a marathon in Kansas just 16 days before the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, she changed her mind.
“Because I'm young and I'm strong and there will be a day when I don't get to do this,” Bennett said. “I did it for the Memorial. This is where I'm from and I have friends who had friends in the bombing and I've wanted to do this.”
Bennett ran with a group from the Edmond Red Dirt Running Club.
ELEVATION CHANGE LIFTS VIERS
Jerod Viers never imagined he would run in a marathon.
Sunday was just his third race ever. The 20-year-old ran in a 5K in January and a 10-mile run in February before finishing the marathon in 3:20.44.
“I feel indestructible,” Viers said. “It's an incredible feeling to finish this.”
Viers hoped for an eight-minute per mile pace but finished well better than that, averaging 7:40 per mile.
“Maybe it was the elevation difference,” Viers, who is from Loveland, Colo., said.
SPLIT CAUSES SOME CONFUSION
Instead of wearing their chips strapped around their ankles, runners from the Fleet Feet Tulsa marathon relay team held their chips in their hands as they ran.
The only issue from that came at the timing stations, when the runners had to bend down to make sure the chip registered as they crossed the pads.
“We were just afraid it would slip off,” Seth Black said.
The bigger problem during Black's leg came for the rest of the race. Marathon and marathon relay runners were to be separated on the course, opening room for those runners as they mixed with half marathoners. This was the first year for the change.
But Black stayed in a clogged-up pack until the final 100 feet or so, when marathon officials directed him to the other side of the road.
“It was tough weaving back and forth and jumping up on yards to try to keep running through,” Black said.
SOUTHMOORE JUNIOR FIGHTS THROUGH CRAMPS
Gaven Kanske felt really good through the first three miles, finishing them in a bit more than 18 minutes.
But then a cramp in his left calf slowed down the Southmoore junior as he made his way through the half marathon.
“It hurt until about the seventh mile,” Kanske said. “Then it went away finally, but it was tough.”
Kanske, 17, was running in his fifth half marathon at the event and finished in 1:23.34, his personal best.
Now, he turns his attentions back to high school track season. Kanske is attempting to qualify for the Class 6A state meet in two weeks.
BY RYAN ABER, STEPHANIE KUZYDYM AND ED GODFREY