The act of crossing the finish line meant something to every one of the 25,000 runners at this year's Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
It always does, but this year it meant more.
For some, the line meant the blessed end. For others, the line stood in between them and a personal best record. For many, thoughts of Boston crossed their mind about what a finish line stood for two weeks ago: destruction and terror.
That's not what it became for Oklahoma City on Sunday for the 13th annual marathon. It became a line in the sand — between fear and faith. It became a line between the rear view mirror and the road to recovery. It became a healing line.
But for these following runners, the line meant Boston was one more group of people to add to the list of why Oklahomans race to remember.
Andrew Longoria bent forward and wept.
The runner from Medway, Mass., stepped over Oklahoma City's finish line seconds before.
His wife, race officials and a film crew immediately surrounded him. A shorter man of sturdy build wearing a blue Boston Marathon shirt, he was slightly out of breath. He'd just completed the OKC marathon, less than two weeks after he was 300 yards away from the finish line when two bombs exploded.
He was one of the thousands who didn't finish the Boston Marathon that was invited by the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation to finish the race free of an entry fee.
When he finished, emotions overwhelmed him. He stood hugging his supporters, and his wife held his hand. Then he began to well up with tears when Oklahoma City Bombing survivor Amy Downs placed a finisher medal over his head. They embraced.
“It was very easy,” Longoria said of crossing the finish line. “It was after that it was hard to contain myself.”
Race volunteers congratulated him and patted him on the back.
“I needed to finish,” Longoria said.
He crossed the line in 4 hours, 20 minutes and 46 seconds.
Adele Pitt dropped to her knees and gave the pavement a quick kiss.
“I'm so excited to get through the finish line,” Pitt said.
Two weeks ago, she didn't get that chance.
The 62-year-old from Wisconsin was just more than a half-mile from the finish line when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon.
When she found out the Oklahoma City event was offering free entries to runners who weren't able to finish in Boston, she jumped at the chance.
Pitt was familiar with the marathon, having run the half in Oklahoma City in 2010.
“The people here are so friendly, and the memorial is the most moving memorial I've ever been to,” Pitt said. “So two days later, I decided I was coming to Oklahoma City.”
It was an emotional finish for Pitt, who said she was more tired than normal after running her second marathon in two weeks.
“To not be able to get to the finish line in Boston was just crushing,” Pitt said. “To train through a terrible Milwaukee winter and not get to finish was tough.”
Pitt finished in 4:23.48, good enough for her to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon in 2014.
“I don't know yet if I'll do that,” Pitt said, before she was certain she qualified. “It's a very, very tough course. But I'll think about it.”
Linda McMichael and Cami Rowe
Linda McMichael of Pottsboro, Texas, crossed the finish line of the Oklahoma City Memorial on Sunday wearing a homemade sign that read, “I Survived Boston.”
“It's a blessing for us to be here,” said McMichael's boyfriend, Dean Phillips of Pottsboro, Texas, who was running side by side with her at mile 25 of the Boston Marathon when the bombing occurred.
“We didn't get to finish the race,” McMichael said.
The pair was not reluctant to run in Oklahoma City despite their experience in Boston.
“In fact, that made us more determined to run,” Phillips said. “People want to stop our way of life. They are trying to demoralize us.”
McMichael said the only answer to terrorism is to “keep going. We can't live in a bubble.”
Cami Rowe, 45, of Oklahoma City agrees. She was between the two bombs on the Boston Marathon course.
“I heard the boom and I stopped,” said Rowe, who was very close to the finish line at the time. “I just saw the smoke billowing.”
Then Rowe heard the second blast behind her and immediately fled the course. Still, she wasn't hesitant to run Sunday in the Memorial Marathon.
“Evil is evil and you can't hide from it,” she said.
William Choi, David Ball, Brent Stovall, David Wray, Bill McManus and Jonathan Pillow
William Choi, David Ball, Brent Stovall, David Wray, Bill McManus and Jonathan Pillow were six of the 86 Oklahomans that ran Boston two weeks ago.
On Sunday, despite running different races and paces, the six Oklahoman runners crossed the finish line together to an eruption of cheers.
They wore their yellow finisher T-shirts from the 117th Boston Marathon and red socks and sleeves. Choi held a sign with the words “Boston 4:09”.
“We were all kind of inspired by the events that happened because we were all there,” Choi said of Boston's response teams and volunteers. “We wanted to somehow pay tribute to the victims.”
Being from Oklahoma, they knew the Memorial Marathon was the right place to do so.
Raj Patel of Tulsa also ran in the race despite his children, who stood in the exact spot the bombs went off 20 minutes before they exploded, begging him not to run.
Although Patel normally listens to his audio Bible when he runs, he said his mind wandered to Boston, “to the smoke and people with the (ball) bearings in their legs and the glass fragments.”
“I thought about it maybe at mile 20,” Patel said. “It hit me that I'm alive to do this run and live another day for God's glory.”
As all seven Oklahomans crossed the finish line, they were smiling. None of them were afraid of this finish line. Fear has no place in remembrance.
“We're runners and we're showing them this isn't changing anything for us,” Stovall said. “We're still going to run.”