Buried alive in the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building 19 years ago, Amy Downs made a promise to God that if she survived, she wasn’t going to live her life the same way.
Trapped for 6 1/2 hours and expecting to die, Downs thought about “a lot of things in my life that were wrong and needed changing.”
Downs lived, but 18 of her co-workers in the Federal Employees Credit Union were killed in the bombing. Some dark years followed as Downs tried to cope with the trauma, but she eventually got around to keeping her promise.
“I kept going back to that day and the promise I made to God that I wasn’t going to live my life the same,” she said. “I was going to change.”
She became more spiritual. She returned to college and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And then she made the biggest change in her life. She lost 200 pounds.
Weight had been a constant struggle for Downs, who weighed 355 pounds at age 27.
“When you are overweight, it bothers you all the time,” she said. “I don’t care what kind of face you put on or how you act about it.”
She had tried and failed many times to lose weight and finally decided in 2008 to have gastric sleeve surgery, which restricts the amount a person can eat.
She quickly lost 75 pounds, but WeightWise in Edmond warned Downs that she had to adopt a healthy lifestyle to reach her goal. In January 2009, Downs walked into a gymnasium for the first time in her life.
Since then, she has been going to the gym five days a week and either runs or rides a bicycle on weekends. She now weighs 155 pounds and encourages others to get off the couch and start moving.
She decided to get serious about running after handing out medals at the finish line to runners in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon five years ago.
“I was so overcome with emotion just seeing all the different ages and disabilities and body shapes crossing the finish line,” she said.
She pledged then to run in the marathon the next year in honor of her friends and co-workers who had died in the bombing. When Downs first started running, she could only run for 10 seconds then would have to stop for two minutes to recover.
In 2010, she ran her first half marathon in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. She skipped the 2011 event, but then met Oklahoma City running guru Mark Bravo and started working with him and learning how to properly train.
She now runs three half marathons per year on average and completed her third half marathon in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon on Sunday.
She ran the full marathon in the event two years ago. In September, she plans to participate in her first Redman Triathlon, entering the half triathlon, which will be swimming 1.2 miles, cycling for 56 miles and running the 13-mile half-marathon.
Downs, 47, is often asked to share her story with clubs, churches and other organizations.
“A lot of people think they have to have this tall, lean athletic looking body. They think that is the runner,” Downs said.
“Running events are not just for elite athletes. When they see somebody like me, who doesn’t fit that body type and is out there doing it, then they think, ‘If she is doing it, then I can do it.’”