Inaugural Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon meant for running, remembrance

Saturday, April 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Thomas Hill says running a marathon is a lot like living life.

``It's a little painful, but you get over it,'' he said. ``The pain fades and you're left with the joy.''

His marathon mantra will hold special significance in Sunday's inaugural Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, meant to honor those who died, survived or lost loved ones in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Hill and his running partner, Chet Collier, came up with the idea for the marathon on a training run last April when Hill was ranting about Oklahoma City's lack of a suitable marathon. By the time their run was over, the details of the run already began to come to them _ along with thoughts of bombing victims.

The result is Sunday's marathon, which will support the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Collier said he hopes it will grow to be a memorial in itself to the lives of the 168 people who died in the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Building. It will be run every year on the last Sunday in April.

``Right from the start, this has been about the memorial,'' he said. ``This is not about the marathon.''

A week before the race, about 3,600 runners _ from 45 states and a handful of foreign countries _ had registered for the marathon and the relay race.

Hill and Collier won't make any predictions about how much money will be raised this year, but they say their contribution to the memorial will be substantial.

Hill said he hopes in a few years the race will have 10,000 or 15,000 participants and raise as much as $1 million for the memorial at the site of the former Murrah building.

The 26.2-mile course starts at the bombing memorial and takes runners through the Bricktown entertainment district, to the state Capitol complex, around Lake Hefner and through many neighborhoods and city parks, said race director Dot Hensley.

There's also a fun walk, a kids marathon and a health and fitness expo that weekend with booths sponsored by 65 organizations, she said.

Banners bearing the names of the 168 victims of the bombing will be displayed along the marathon course reminding runners of the people they're running for.

Hill hopes runners will see the names and be inspired to finish the marathon. He knows it will help him finish strong, but that the race will likely be more difficult than others he's run.

``Anyone who has run distance, knows that running is a personal thing,'' he said. ``I think the way people react to that emotion will be unique for each individual.''

Collier said it will be easy to ignore the pain in his legs knowing what survivors and victims of the bombing feel.

``When I see the names on the banners, I'll realize the suffering I'm going through is nothing _ nothing _ compared to what the families went through,'' he said.