My old childhood friend was visiting last year. We grew up together in LA, and he has lived in Oklahoma City the past several years. He was back in town last year visiting family, and I popped in to visit for a while. Since he knows I am an avid runner, he invited me out to the OKC Marathon, which was supposed to be run in April 2021, coinciding with the anniversary of the OKC bombing. Due to Covid restrictions, the marathon was pushed back to October. So- off I went for my first trip to the South. The race (OKC Memorial Marathon) begins with 168 seconds of silence, one second for each victim of the horrible 1995 bombing, and then commenced at 6:30 a.m. for 26.2 miles through the Capitol, Bricktown, and many other historic neighborhoods. I had to watch what I ate before the race, but afterwards I got to indulge in some really good BBQ, biscuits, and Tex-Mex queso blanco.
After finishing in a respectable 51st overall place in a time of 3:19:06- not bad for a 43 year old guy, we checked out OU. I was confused since it is really the University of Oklahoma, so OU seemed backwards to me, but that’s just the way it is- I guess U of O is taken by Oregon. But these Oklahomans really love their football. Every bar, restaurant, store, or what have you that I walked in, there were conversations of the Sooners, Cowboys (OSU), and the local high school teams. They do have the thunder for their one and only professional (basketball) team, but after KD left, the Thunder really take a back seat to the Sooners and Cowboys.
Going to a small college in upstate Illinois, seeing Owen Field, or “The Palace on the Prairie” in person was something else. The stadium was closed, but the gate was open, and it was just me, my friend, and the guy mowing the grass. Being one of 3 people in the whole stadium was crazy when you consider that place holds 80,000+ people, a huge increase of capacity when it was only 16,000 in 1925. The larger-than-life Heisman statues were mostly all there, Mayfield (2017) and Murray (2018) haven’t been sculpted yet. But I did get to see the others, Sam Bradford, Jason White, Billy Sims, Steve Owens, and Billy Vessels.
Overall, it was a great trip. Southern charm and hospitality are a real thing that I got to experience first-hand. There is a Tulsa Marathon as well, run on old Rte. 66, so perhaps I will visit again someday. For now, the Sooners are ranked third in the AP Polls, and have a good chance at the college football playoffs coming up in just a couple months. The Memorial Marathon is scheduled to resume running in April again, starting in 2022.