I decided to listen. I changed what the finish line meant to me: the end of a 5K I hadn’t trained a second for since I signed up. It seemed lame but I needed something.
I still texted my mom and sister to tell them I loved them before my race.
Then came Sunday morning and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” filling the air that surrounded the National Memorial and my fear turned into faith – that nothing would happen, that every one of the thousands of people surrounding me would be just fine and that we wouldn’t add any more tragedies to those we run to remember.
I ran because although I am Hoosier born and bred, in the last nine months I have become an Oklahoman and something inside me told me I needed to run this race to better understand the people and the state I cover, and also myself.
At 6:45 a.m. Sunday, I stood in line for the restroom outside the National Memorial with Oklahoman copy editor Jordan Gamble. In front of us was a family that all had shirts for the victim they were running for: Blake Ryan Kennedy. The one-and-a-half year old died 18 years ago and his sister and mother and cousins — some who looked just a year old, who had no idea what the day meant — were all wearing shirts and buttons with his adorable face on them.
I began to better understand.
Then came the race. Jordan, who is actually also from Indiana, snapped a few shots as we ran through the pretty empty streets of our new city. We spent a good mile running around people who stopped and turned around to take photographs of the OCPD Academy 130 that chanted as they ran. All the way through Bricktown we listened to them chant. Their cadence fueled us about a mile until they passed us on the bridge on N. Mickey Mantle Dr.
Then Jordan and I ran and laughed at people’s signs and high-fived little kids along the route. Near the end of the race, there was a slight incline on 10th St. I started to get a cramp in my stomach so I asked Jordan if we could walk for a few seconds until we turned the corner of Broadway. When we did, we saw the finish line. We looked at each other and took off sprinting.
Fear of the finish line? It had disintegrated. I stood behind it for the next few hours as I interviewed marathon and half-marathon finishers, watching some cross with their hands over their hearts while others collapsed as soon as they crossed that line marked “Finish.”
And my idea of what a finish line meant changed again. This is the line between who we were and who we now are. This is a line that shows us why we should be more patient when we have to take things out of our suitcases at the airport. This is a line that drew people from Massachusetts and Wisconsin and Nebraska and Oklahoma and so many other states together. This is a line that, although some may have had fear of, they set that fear aside and crossed it on Sunday.
This is the line that says even though you can hurt us, you can never break us – because we will always race to remember.
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