Running to Remember Since 2001
The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon’s mission is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of those who were killed on April 19, 1995, and unite the world in hope. This is not just another marathon: it’s a Run to Remember.
Follow through the virtual exhibit timeline of the Memorial Marathon.
Those were not just words, but the reason Oklahoma City businessmen on a long training run in spring 2000 were given the vision to create a world-class event as a tribute to the people of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma City National Memorial was in the final days of construction and once they realized that Oklahoma City needed a marathon, they said, “If we are going to do a Marathon, let’s do it for the Memorial.” With the support of the Memorial board, the city and community leaders, Thomas Hill, Chet Collier along with David Hill, began to work on the plans for the Marathon to be held in April the following year.
Just months after the opening of the Oklahoma City Memorial Museum and Inaugural OKC Memorial Marathon, the nation suffered more terrorist attacks on September 11th. The second year of the race took on a more symbolic meaning as America remembers the events of 9/11 – in both cases, Americans stood against evil. The community vows again that in the end, good will always triumph. The Kids Marathon was added to teach this story to the next generation.
Eight days before the third annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and on April 19, 2003, at an unknown location in the middle of the Sinai Desert, some of the bravest and most dedicated US Army soldiers ran their own Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. More than 100 members of Force-1-180 serving in the Iraq War set up their own course and ran our marathon to Run to Remember. First Church starts a pancake breakfast across the street from the Memorial geared toward runners and their families. This event would begin to grow year by year as a ministry.
The 2004 event shirt has a child’s drawing taken from a tile in the Children’s Area of the Outdoor Memorial. It features the earth with the text “The World is in Our Heart” and the program depicts the 2003 winner 19-year-old Jason Dixon from Oklahoma City. A new cutout look is added to the Survivor Tree on the medals.
The Marathon continues to gain national recognition and running legends join the Race. Four-time winner of Boston and New York City marathons Bill Rodgers, Olympic marathoner Frank Shorter and Dick Beardsley, London Marathon champion, joined thousands of runners in the OKC Memorial Marathon. On that last Sunday in April, Conor Holt set a course record with a 2:22:54.
More than 10,000 runners are set to run the Marathon marking the 10th Anniversary of the bombing. The Run to Remember has grown to become one of the “12 Must Run Marathons” in the world by Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World. He included it alongside Miami, Austin, Minneapolis, Big Sur, Catalina Island, Pikes Peak, Rome, Stockholm and Antarctica.
For the first time, the Memorial captures the highlights of the Memorial Marathon on video and releases a Race Day recap.
Brendan Brustad, a senior airman stationed at Altus Air Force Base sets out to break the Guinness Book of World Records’ mark for most miles run on a treadmill in a week leading up to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. He had already run from Altus to Oklahoma City, then the Memorial Marathon. His four-day journey covered 168 miles. Joan Benoit Samuelson, two-time Boston Marathon winner, Olympic Gold Medalist and first Women’s Olympic Marathon Champion comes to run the Memorial Marathon with other running legends Bill Rodgers and Dick Beardsley.
In 2009, the event shirt lists all of the different races people participate and the official event program highlights the Gates of Time with the mission of the Memorial: We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this Memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
Blake Kennedy was an 18th month old in the day care housed in the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995, his mom Laura was working several floors above. He would be killed and his mom would walk out of the building with cuts and bruises. Each year Laura and her husband Steve, dozens of family members, friends and teachers from Amber, OK, take part in the Memorial 5K to honor his memory. The Kennedy family is not alone. Many families of those who were killed, survivors and first responders gather to walk, run and join teams to “Run in Honor of” to bond with the community to Run to Remember.
It is vitally important that runners remember why they run the Memorial Marathon. We wanted to hear from a few of the runners from each race as to why they run.
The Marathon is usually run the last Sunday in April. But in 2011, that was Easter Sunday. So the race was run on May 1, 2011. The Start Line is moved from Robinson Ave. to Harvey Ave. in front of the Memorial Museum. The new start runs by the 9:03 Gate, which symbolizes healing and resilience of Oklahoma City after the bombing.
Evan Pendleton, a survivor of the YMCA Day Care across the street from the bombing, runs the Marathon relay for the second time as a senior in high school with some fellow football buddies. He runs because he is tied to our mission. Marathon organizers begin Tied to Our Mission annual campaign that allows all runners to raise extra money to benefit the Memorial. Thousands of dollars are raised and sets the bar for the program to grow. Camille Herron sets Women’s Marathon Course Record with a run of 2:45:13
Each year, a banner is hung along the course in Oklahoma City, Nichols Hills and the Village. Each banner recognizes one of the 168 people killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing.
Diana Sherer had passed the 25th mile at the Boston Marathon two weeks before-it was supposed to be her last. She was a half-mile from finishing her dream marathon when the bombs went off and she was forced to stop. Marathon organizers invited the runners who didn’t get to finish Boston to come to Oklahoma City and run with no registration fees. More than a dozen came. Hundreds wore Red socks to honor the runners killed and injured in Boston. “It’s kind of a feeling of closure, she says. “What happened in Boston and in Oklahoma City are so related. It kind of felt like a completion to the Boston Marathon, too,” Sherer said.
The Run to Remember holds a special spot in the hearts of many who participate, none more so than those whose loved ones were killed on April 19th, 1995. Clint Hodges runs to remember his father, Thompson Eugene Hodges Jr., who was killed in the bombing.
Major thunderstorms moved into downtown Oklahoma City causing officials to delay the start of the Marathon by just under 2 hours. “I felt a sense of pride during the race because at various points along the course I found myself running next to some of the first responders from the bombing seeing them, made me push myself harder.” Tom Leddy, Running the Southwest
The 15th Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon shirt and program graphically highlights the key iconic elements of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial around the green Marathon logo: The Survivor Tree, the Chairs, the Gates of Time and the Promontory. The medal’s design incorporated these Memorial elements around the 15th Annual Run to Remember graphic.
This elite group of runners have participated in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon since it’s inception. This group that has battled through the years to ensure they never miss the chance to Run to Remember.
When runners came to the Expo to pick up their packets, they were able to see the topography of the entire Marathon course on a model built in partnership with the OU College of Architecture.
The Marathon joins USA Today Sports Active Alliance, a group of 16 prominent marathons, qualifying the race as one of the best in the country. Catherine Lisle wins her third Memorial Marathon in a photo finish with Danielle Hodge in the women’s division. Lisle wins by a tenth of a second – her second photo finish win. Patrick Gomez wins the men’s division, his first ever Marathon.
The 2016 event program displays a photograph of the start of the 2015 with the runners symbolically moving forward. The shirt is bright blue with the Marathon’s logo in chartreuse. The medal mixes elements of the logo with an oversized “16th Annual” and the ribbon is decorated with the Survivor Tree.
The 2017 event program is designed with an image of a race start and below the title is a ribbon of six closeup photos of different event runners participating in the previous year. The event shirt is seafoam green with the Marathon logo in green and white print. The Marathon medal has an oversized “17th Annual” surrounded by stars and a green, black and white designed ribbon.
America’s Got Talent winner Darci Lynne records a series of videos that highlight Words of the Week. Kids Marathoners watch these weekly videos at their schools and become motivated to get up and run!
Bob and Betty Kinder are the adorable couple in their eighties who were a viral hit at the 2017 Marathon. Hand in hand they crossed the finish line, both wearing smiles, and Bob, a certain eye-catching hat.
Changing of the Course of OKC was the focus in 2019. Runners had to learn a new course with a few new twists and turns along the way. After using the same Marathon course since the inception, the course was changed to adapt to a changing city and to end in the new Scissortail Park in 2020. But 2019, the Memorial Marathon ended at the beautiful Devon Tower, our presenting sponsor of the OKC Memorial Marathon.
The theme for the 19th Annual Marathon is “Changing the Course of OKC” and incorporates into all of the memorabilia. The cover art of the program featured the mural artwork of local artist Arjan Jager. The mural was commissioned by the Marathon and Devon Energy and was located at the westside of Devon Tower along the new finish line on N. Hudson Avenue. The art illustrated the route, changes to the city, the race course and Devon’s partnership with the Marathon.
Taking the Memorial Marathon virtual allowed for the addition of two new events, a 26.2 and a 13.1 mile bike ride. These new events allow registrants to participate in a different way.
The 20th Annual Marathon is a year like no other because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The race will be run virtually to keep our athletes safe. The 20th year showcases the theme “Looking Back Running Forward” on the shirt and medal. The two-tone silver and gold medal feature the original smaller Survivor Tree surrounded by the fuller contemporary Survivor Tree with a green, black and white printed Run to Remember ribbon. Runners donate athletic shoes to commemorate the milestone. Each pair donated benefits Cleats for Kids, a nonprofit that equips and empowers kids through sports.
We invited runners to Come Run ’21, marking the first post-pandemic year of in-person running. Following recommendations from the Memorial’s Come Back Team of community leaders, medical professionals, emergency management and first responders, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was delayed from its signature date in April to allow all participants to enjoy the event safely – together – while following COVID-19 protocols.