Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon officials encouraging runners to get COVID-19 vaccine before October’s race

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In October, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is returning in-person for the first time in two-and-a-half years.

Organizers are taking a step in the fight against the pandemic that caused the delay – launching a public service announcement campaign, encouraging runners to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as taking social distancing precautions.

“This is not a political issue, this is a public health issue and we’re just encouraging runners to get it,” said Kari Watkins, Executive Director at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “We’re not requiring it, we’re just encouraging.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, so have the talks between Watkins and OU’s Chief COVID-19 Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler.

“If we were having it today, I’d be a lot more concerned,” Bratzler told News 4. “A lot of the epidemiologic models show we will see substantial peak, particularly with the opening of schools but we could start to fall off fairly quickly after that.”

Bratzler says if runners are not yet vaccinated, he hopes they consider it – because running fast doesn’t guarantee COVID-19 won’t catch up to you.

“The very first person I ever took care of with COVID-19 was a distance runner,” said Bratzler. “The very first person who presented with shortness of breath, severe cough and long-haul symptoms and took him literally months to get back to pre-COVID aerobic capacity.”

Watkins says as of right now, registration looks to be at about 50% of their normal turnout.

They’re working on plans for safety – including spreading out runners at the start line and starting the race in waves.

“We’ll start making those calls 30 days out, maybe around Labor Day, saying here’s what we expect from runners,” she said.

As they work on precautions on their end, officials hope runners will take their own as well.

“For us, the marathon is an important celebration of life and coming together,” said Watkins. “When you look at the opportunities of do you require a shot or do you not require a shot, the best thing we could do is encourage vaccinations and give people a reason to go get vaccinated.”

Bratzler says as of right now, he’d encourage runners to wear a mask at the start line and take it off as they spread out.

He also says they will likely highly promote, if not mandate, masks at the indoor registration event ahead of the race.

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