Phidippides, a professional Greek runner was sent on assignment to run back to Athens, alert the people of the approaching Persians and carry the news of their amazing victory.
Phidippides ran the 26.2 miles back to Athens in about three hours, delivered the news, and unfortunately collapsed and died from the exhaustion of it all.
On April 19, 1995 at 9:02 AM, another outnumbered battle was fought, and 168 innocent people lost their lives. Men, women, and children lost their lives in and around the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma.
This battle included no conduct of war, no conflicts between armies, no warranting, and absolutely no justification. There was no battle, just a cowardice attack against his own people.
It's been 12 years since the blast was felt from the bombing in Oklahoma City, and the fine people of this victimized city have done everything they can to honor and remember those who never got another chance to live their lives.
From the city's commitment to cherish the lives of these people, the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was created 7 years ago. A run commemorating the amazing feat of Phidippides' 26.2 mile run was established to remember the 168 lost lives. The run was also instituted to remind us all that we have been given the gift of life and it is too precious to waste. It encourages us to recognize the preciousness of time, value one another, take life as it comes and, " to make something magic out of it." In other words: Celebrate Life.
When I signed up to run the OKC Marathon, I did it for personal reasons. I wanted to accomplish this elite event, to simply have the claim as "marathoner." As training progressed, it became less and less about my pending accomplishment, and more and more about the filling God who was allowing me to push forward with another few miles each time. I was divinely partnered up with Wendy along the way and the awaiting challenge became more real with each long run we'd share. As our hearts poured out over several miles together and we became irreplaceable friends, God revealed even more about His reasons I was going to run the OKC Marathon.
As Wendy and I were met with a plethora of obstacles including, rain, snow, freezing temperatures, driving wind, afflictions, flare-ups, diseases, burnout, heartaches, deployment, finances, mothering, families, food, marriage, and nearly everything else that tried to stop us.
God granted the grace to push forward and to take that next stride.
Just as we assumed, the eve of the run had come faster than we anticipated I found myself filled with nerves and emotions. I met with Wendy in our hotel to call down God's mercy and love as we embarked on our journey the next morning. Asking for specific protection for all our ailments and for his mercy to carry us through. I got in bed, but I'm not sure how much I actually slept. Even though three alarms were set, I managed to have a dream that I didn't wake up and I missed the start. Thankfully it was just a dream and I rose easily to prepare for the 5:00 am shuttle ride to downtown OKC.
We stumbled out of the bus amongst a huge crowd of people and tried to stay warm in the chilly morning air. We shuffled around the mob, prayed at the memorial, wedged in to porta-potty line, found Kenton and Judah, participated in 168 seconds of silence, listen to several thousand people sing along to our Nation's Anthem, and gave a look of shock when the starting horn actually went off. The moment had come, I was now beginning my first marathon in Oklahoma City.
Even though the start signal had sounded, we were far from moving. We were wedge right in the middle of the largest crowd I'd ever been in. Eventually we were walking, and about ten minutes later we set in to a jog and crossed the starting line.
There was a sea of people ahead of me as far as I could see and if I turned back, it was just as congested.
It took a few miles to start spreading out, as we did we took in all the sights of the city. We immediately hit Bricktown, rounded the corner to see the state capital, and headed into some of the greatest neighborhoods I've ever seen. All the way, there were people all over, whether it was along the street or in their yard, cheering and offering the greatest encouragement.
The miles were marked with large green and white flags and Wendy and I couldn't believe that they just seemed to keep rolling by.
We were both overjoyed that we felt great, the weather was absolutely beautiful, and somehow it felt like time was just flying by.
My personal road crew, a.k.a Kenton and Judah, were continually showing up along the way to offer any aid and best of all their support. Judah didn't really get what was going on, but when he noticed the aid stands were passing out pretzels, he thought that was pretty cool. "Mommy, they've got pretzels!!!!"
As significant miles passed I would text message out our stats in a mass message to our friends and family. It was great to receive messages back from back home, knowing that we were being cheered for from a distance.
We ran out to the beautiful scenery of Lake Hefner and cleared mile 15 with joy. The park was full of musicians supporting us and still strangers cheering for us like we were their daughters.
"Lookin' good, you're doing great." "You look strong, nice going."
Mile 16 came with it's promise of Gu. Yes, Gu. The lovely packet of simply that. Goo. It's loaded with all sorts of energy power, and athletes swear by it. I had previously experimented with the flavored gel and couldn't stomach it, so I had packed another brand of similar stuff. By mile 17, Wendy and I had taken our shots of energy, grabbed bananas, slammed some oranges, and decided we had probably popped all the energy supplements (pretzels, shot bloks, fruit, and Gu) we could stomach until the end.
I saw my husband and baby boy at mile 17 for their last visit until the finish. I was chipper and pumped to see this thing through.
The sun blared down, we kept rolling on. We took a necessary stretch break and picked it right back up. We ran through water showers, shook off and refocused down the street. We continued to pass the lovely people of OKC and get re-charged with every enthusiastic roar. Mile
21 came with the much needed support of Wendy's family. Her Husband Jeremy, fresh home from his air force deployment, and her beautiful daughter Maddy. From behind the camera, Jeremy lovingly asked, "do you need anything?" "Are you sure?" "I can go get whatever you need." They exchanged their love, and Wendy called out to Maddy, "Pray for us." Maddy heeded the call and trekked along side the road with us offering up the sweetest prayer to the Lord. We all exclaimed AMEN! and kept pressing on.
More support and aid stations passed. New items were being offered, including wet sponges.... the best thing after 22+ miles in the sun. We took our last potty break and headed out for our last long haul.
Statistically, somewhere around mile 23-24 runners do what they call, "hitting the wall." This is the state where your body runs out of all it's energy sources and is forced to keep going with no gas in the tank. We passed a charming little sign that said, "The Wall, was just an album by Pink Floyd." I laughed and thought, "humm? Am I hitting the wall?" Maybe not then, but it came, and just like a literal wall, it's hard to get over.
We took our last stretch break at mile 23, I stood back up straight and sorta lost the light for a bit, felt a little woozy, and really hoped all my food was going to stay down where it belonged. We worked out the kinks in our very sore legs. I managed to get my normal stride back, and a few yards ahead of us was a CVS Pharmacy sign that Wendy declared was were we would need to pick it back up. We hit our pace again and we both agreed that we weren't stopping until this beast was over.
I have run three mile runs more times than I can count. It's a piece of cake to me. I do it all the time pushing Judah in a stroller. But these three miles were a test of everything I am made of. Thankfully the crowds did for us what I couldn't do anymore. They smiled, cheered, and believed in us. Screaming out as the distance trickled down, "less than three miles to go!!!" Neighbors, not even official aids to the run, supplied us with a huge bucket of ice to keep cool, and rub in sore muscles. Mile 24 managed to make it behind us and we knew only one more mile marker was left before the finish line was our next destination.
Kenton called me wondering where we were. Our projected five hour mark had approached and our families knew we had to be close. He was concerned thinking that we should have been closer. His inquiry of, "Are you okay?" started to unlock the tight locked vault of emotions I had been keeping under raps. I cracked a little and said, "yeah." "Do you need anything?" "Just pray, it's getting really hard."
As we knew that so many people were praying for us across the region, and the added request I just included, God was faithful. A breeze kicked up and filled my lungs. Mile 25 passed and I knew we were done. Kenton came in to view around 25.5 and was encouraging us that it was just around the corner. I hollered at him to get to the line and to not miss the finish. He characteristically called back, "don't worry, you guys are running really slow, I'll beat you there!" Thanks babe, anytime is comedy hour around our family!
We turned the corner, to be greeted by our last aid station. The music was pumped, the balloons were bright and the people were shouting, "just up there and around the corner, then your done!"
Adrenaline started pumping, because we started picking it up. We no longer looked like worn out trotters, we were runners again. Turned the corner, and there it was. A huge green and white balloon arch with stands of people on either side.
We got further, and there was my family. First my Dad. Standing and waiting in the middle of the street just past the 26 mile mark. Then there was my brother-in-law, Jeff trotting along the other side. Kenton was snapping pics and pressing on down the line. My Dad hopped in a stride with us questioning us on how we felt. "You look good, nice and smooth."
He kept jumping in front to snap a picture. I look to the right and I see my sister leaned over the rail clapping and screaming. Next to her is my mom yelling out our names. Then my sweet baby boy waving his arms and saying, "Hi Mommy!" Right beside them is Jeremy and Maddy cheering their lovely wife and wonderful mother to the end. We crossed the sensor mat and they got our info to call out our names over the loud speaker. "Wendy Grist!" "In her first marathon, Lacy Hansen!"
My face was curling up, I was starting what I call, "the ugly cry." There it was, the line and with one more stride it was mine.
I'm not the hugging type, but I grabbed Wendy and gave her a sweaty squeeze. We were immediately greeted with all the food and drinks we could want. We walked through grabbed water and whatever else sounded good. Next stop was to have the timing chip cut off our shoes and then a medal was draped around necks.
The moment was fast but surreal. With the achievement of finishing, official "Finisher" shirts were passed out to us.
After all those steps we were finally able to get out of the gate and meet our families.
Kenton followed along the whole path and was there to catch me as I finally fell apart. Tears from exhaustion, sobs over the accomplishment, joy to have it behind me, and shock that a God would grant an over weight, lazy, un-athletic person like me the ability to endure 26.2 miles of running.
Hugs and praise continued as the rest of my family made it to me. Pictures and brief stories followed. A much desired hug and another mini breakdown with my Dad completed the finishing experience.
Walking around became increasingly hard and I needed some shade. I managed to find a tree and plop there. I claimed all the food anyone wanted and remained under that tree for quite some time.
When I realized that I literally couldn't walk very far, Kenton retrieved the car and my parents had to walk me to the the street. They placed me in and saw us off. Returning to the hotel it became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to get up to the room for awhile. When I attempted to get up, faintness and nausea overcame my body. So I returned to my seat and sent Kenton on up. I said he could fetch me later. Eventually I felt "better" and had him walk me up to the room. Our hotel was filled with many runners hobbling just like me. The staff knew we were all worn out and offered their congrats and support too.
As my feet were released from their prison, I "ewed" at their appearance. I was helped into the shower and stayed their for quite sometime.
The pain dulled and flared for the remainder of the day. My sister and nephew came and played in the pool while I watched. We ate dinner together at Pei Wei. It was several hours after the run and finally I could imagine eating again, and oh my, it was good! We said goodbye and went our own ways.
Kenton and I wanted to see a few of the places I had traveled by foot, so we traveled the last few miles by car. We swapped stories of what was going on at particular markers. As we approached the finishing area for the second time that day, emotions welled up for both of us again. I was overcome once more and he was so sweet to share his feeling of disbelief and pride in me.
We ended at the gates to the bombing memorial. Which served as the starting line and finishing lines of the race.
It was an appropriate way to end this day. We got out and toured the beautiful sight. It's an amazing tribute to such a tragic event. The grounds include 168 chairs, each bearing the name of a fallen victim. Impactful on any day I'm sure, but overwhelming on this day. Since the marathon was created to honor the fallen and to cherish the life we still have, surviving loved ones of the victims participated in the days event.
Many of those chairs were draped with a finishers medal from the days run. It became too real, and I lost it. Among those 168 chairs are 19 smaller chairs representing the 19 children who were lost too. Many of those chairs had medals placed on them too. "Oh Dear God, I didn't get it."
I ran a marathon that day, no small feat, but more importantly, I was alive. I have been given a chance to do something that these people weren't. Their lives were stolen on April 19th, 1995. These babies who were stolen were never given a chance to grow and chase down their dreams.
But I was. Yesterday was the second anniversary of my Grandpa John Carlile's death. His life was robbed by a disease and he no longer has the chance to embrace this life. My other Grandfather, Granddad Robert Owen Heck, lost his life to another ruthless disease in 2000. There are countless other loved ones who have left this earth in what we would call, "too soon."
As I looked on to these chairs, I was empowered. I was re-fueled in my heart to listen to the call God has always placed in my heart. The command he whispers in my ear. The banner he hangs over my head, and I'm sure if you listen, he's calling it out to you too.
Go. Go and tell the world that Jesus is alive and that he will do amazing things for your life. Go. Go and chase down your hearts desires. Go. Go after that lofty goal that's been welling up in your heart. Go. Go and take advantage of everything this life has to offer. Go. Go and disregard what others have called you. Go. Go and listen to what God has called you. Just Go.
The bombing in OKC was a lost battle, but in the war we will win. After being a part of that lovely city's experience yesterday, I know that city and we as a people can overcome anything.
Phiddipides' heart burst when he finally reached Athens to exclaim their victory.
"Thank you God for breaking mine yesterday. For allowing it to burst open when my foot crossed the finish line. Thank you that it's now exposed and I want all the world to see it's contents. Thank you for taking me somewhere I shouldn't have been able to go. Thank you for calling me by name, the name you call me, not the one I often hear, but the precious name you call me. Thank you for saying who I am. With my heart out in the open, I will praise you for giving me this life, and the opportunity to seize all it has to offer."
1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!