The finish line means something to everybody.
That’s what I wrote Monday for The Oklahoman’s main event.
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.
What the finish line meant for me changed throughout the week leading up to my first Oklahoma City marathon.
Early last week, it stood as a sign of fear.
My sister knew something was wrong when I was talking to her about my race preparations. (I was only running the 5K with one of my coworkers and a good friend from The Oklahoman, but my sister and her fiancee have run dozens of marathons, half marathons and such, so I felt comfort in talking with her.) She asked if I was nervous about the race and then reminded me I’d completed a longer race with her – a 10K in Chicago. But we both knew three miles wasn’t what was really bothering me.
I’d spent the last two weeks prior to the OKC marathon speaking with many Oklahomans and other runners who survived the blasts of the Boston Marathon. I’d asked them where they were, what they’d seen and some 20 other questions to divulge more detail because as a reporter my job is to try and get every last detail that matters to a story.
I’d gulped down my queasiness at their detailed description of severed limbs and shards of glass in people’s bodies. I’d listened to them talk about the chaos that ensued, the people running with fear in their eyes, the women screaming, the children crying. I’d cried with them when they told me they’d now survived “two acts of stupidity” and when they struggled through sentences as they recounted the horror they’d witnessed.
Last Monday, I found out my assignment was to cover the OKC Memorial Marathon finish line. I cried on the phone when I told my sister.
I’d talked with so many runners who were going to run in Oklahoma City or other races who said they weren’t afraid, that they couldn’t let fear hold us back. Then I interviewed and wrote a Sunday story on a dentist in Tulsa named Raj Patel. Patel’s son was standing near where the bombs exploded just 20 minutes before the detonation. He told his dad he never wanted him to run a race again. Patel responded that’s not how he was going to deal with fear. All week, I tried to grasp that mentality but something about the finish line scared me until I confessed my fears to my sister and my best friend on Saturday.
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