OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Kari Watkins, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, couldn’t help but smile Saturday morning.
“It’s a beautiful day. It’s incredible to be on the streets of Oklahoma City again. To see the thousands of people come out this morning, even in the rain, the skies parted, it can’t get much better,” Watkins said.
The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon Weekend kicked off with the 5K Run at 7:30 a.m. Next up at 10 a.m. will be the Kids Marathon.
This year’s Run to Remember is the first to be held in person, en masse since April 2019. Last year’s Memorial Marathon was delayed and ultimately held virtually as a precaution against the COVID-19 pandemic, which emerged in March 2019 and spread rapidly across Oklahoma.
Although Watkins is happy to have the marathon back in downtown Oklahoma City, she emphasized the importance of taking precautions against COVID-19.
“We got to keep wearing these masks, and people got to get vaccinated. We got to do our part to put this [pandemic] to an end,” Watkins said. “So much of what’s happened over the last 18 months reminds [us] of what happened here in 1995, people coming together. We got to stand united.”
When Watkins mentions 1995, she is referring to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, in which 168 people were killed and scores were injured. It was a tragic day that we continue to mourn. But the Memorial Marathon is held each year to honor the sacred lives lost, and to celebrate the enduring spirit of the survivors and the folks who knew and loved the victims.
“For people to come out here and be part of the race, it’s incredible to see. On this sacred ground we work to find common ground,” Watkins said.
Multiple COVID-19 precautions are in place for this year’s Run to Remember.
Runners were spread out all the way to 10th Street, both east and west.
Marathon events are traditionally held throughout a single day, but this year, the runs are split up to the 5K and Kids Marathon on Saturday, and the Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday.
This year’s marathon is limited to 12,000 runners, which is half of the usual number of runners. Watkins said nearly 12,000 people have signed up for the big run, and people are still registering for the race.
“Let’s just pray for normalcy,” she said.