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Annual marathon raises funds for memorial, brings thousands to OKC

By Heide Brandes

On April 27, more than 25,000 runners will converge on the streets of Oklahoma City to honor the victims of the April 19, 1995 Murrah Bombing at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

A run to honor survivors and those lost in the act of tragedy, the annual marathon was voted as one of the 12 “must-run” marathons in the world by Runners World magazine, and is among one of the most popular marathons in the country for runners from around the world.

This year, the marathon adds a new twist. Each runner is asked to raise a minimum of $1 a mile when they sign up through sponsors and supporters, and each runner reaching that goal will receive Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon green shoe laces from New Balance.

However, the 25,000 who take part in the 26.2 mile marathon, the 13.1 half-marathon, the 5K, the children’s run and more do so to honor and remember the 168 killed in 1995. The race serves as a testimony that good can overcome evil.

“The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum relies on the marathon because it does not receive any federal or state funding,” said Mark Bravo, spokesperson for the Oklahoma City marathon. “Every dollar raised goes to the museum. In the last two years, we’ve raised just under $1 million.”

The spirit of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was conceptualized by two Oklahoma businessmen who, while on a morning run, created the outline for this inspiring event. A group of volunteer chairmen lead a volunteer corps to carry out the full weekend of events allowing the maximum amount of proceeds to benefit The Memorial.

From its inaugural race in 2001 with just shy of 5,000 participants, the event now hosts thousands of runners and walkers from every state and several foreign countries. The Mission of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of those who were killed and unite the world in hope.

“Our kids’ race is among the largest in the country,” said Bravo. “A lot of runners choose our event because of the mission and what it stands for, but they won’t come back unless it’s well run. We go out of our way to make runners feel welcome, to make this the most enjoyable race they run this year.”

The race itself is a massive undertaking, yet the committee only has one full-paid staff member. All 5,000 others are volunteers, and the event highlights the community spirit Oklahoma City showed after the 1995 tragedy.

“People are made to feel welcome. We make it the best running experience they have all year,” said Bravo. “People have told me that when they fly in, Oklahomans thank them for being here. More and more spectators support the runners, and every year, our crowd support grows.”

Also new this year is the option of GPS Tracking, donated by US Fleet Tracking. Runners can choose to pay $25 to be “tracked” during their run with all funds going to the Memorial. Relay team members can track their teammates and medical services can respond more quickly if needed.

“It’s a way to give back to our community, whether you run or support runners,” said Bravo. “Very few people in Oklahoma were not touched by what happened here, and we must never forget.”

As part of the event, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon kicks off with a health expo. The Health and Fitness Expo is Friday, April 25 and Saturday, April 26 at the Cox Business Services Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens.

The Health and Fitness Expo presented by OU Physicians and the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau is a great way to kick off the race weekend. Held the two days before the Marathon, the Expo draws thousands of runners, friends, family, and supporters who can pick up their packets, buy running gear and register for the race.

In addition to booths from a variety of runner related vendors, the Health and Fitness Expo offers free seminars on running performance, health, fitness and training.

For more information about the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, visit http://okcmarathon.com/

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