I stood in the predawn gray, taking long, deep breaths. I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest, the adrenaline coursing through every inch of my body. Be still, I thought. Be calm. Be thankful.
I was one among tens of thousands of people jamming the stretch of Harvey Avenue that borders the Oklahoma City National Memorial. But none of us uttered a word. Only the birds chattered as we observed 168 seconds of silence — one for each victim of the Murrah Building bombing.
This ceremony marks the beginning of each Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. And while the 2012 edition would be my ninth time to run the race, my ninth chance to stand in remembrance of lives lost, the ritual always brings perspective. Where moments before I might have worried about my fitness level or the weather conditions, those petty anxieties vanish when I remember that day in April 1995. What must it be like to have a life ripped away from you? To have no tomorrows?
When the starting gun fired, the crowd surged. Someone jostled me with an elbow to my ribs. I didn't care — I was alive. I was healthy. And I was running.
The course took us through Bricktown, then north on Lincoln Boulevard. The soupy air (temperatures in the 70s, high humidity) wrapped my body and sunk deep into my lungs. By the time I passed NE 13 and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, where I spend most of my days, I was drenched in sweat. And I still had another 23-plus miles to go.
As I struggled up Lincoln Boulevard, I caught my friend and occasional training partner Scott Downard. Unconsciously, I fell into step with him. We exchanged a few words, made a couple of jokes. The miles began to click off. I forgot about the weather, the race, my struggles, and it just felt like I was rolling through a Sunday long run with a buddy.