The Edmond Sun

April 22, 2013

Edmond runners support Boston victims, confront terror

OKC Memorial Marathon set for Sunday

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — They run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for different reasons.

They run to remember the horrifying events of April 19, 1995, when Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb that sheared off a third of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing 168 men, women and children, changing a city, state and nation forever.

They run to remember a loved one.

They run to celebrate life and all things good and positive.

Sunday morning, they also will run to remember the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three and wounded more than 175.

Leslie Buford, a member of the Landrunners, an Oklahoma City running club, said this was her first time to miss the Boston Marathon in five years. She is in the final stages of preparing to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

Buford said she is running for two reasons — to support Boston and to honor W. Stephen Williams, 42, of Cashion, who was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. Williams was an operations supervisor for the Social Security Administration. He is survived by his wife Barbara and three daughters. One of them, Sara Sweet, is a friend of Buford’s.

Buford, who works for OU Medical Center-Edmond, said marathoners are stubborn folk.

“I want to do better now,” she said. “There’s no way I’m not running Oklahoma City after this happened.”

Buford said she and her mother are committed to run the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Heath Jones, who directs the Oklahoma Christian University Jazz Ensemble and Sweat Band, said he is leaning toward trying to finish his first marathon on Sunday. Jones said he has participated in an 18-week training program, part of a decision to get healthier, and even if he doesn’t finish it would be an accomplishment.

Jones said he was extremely saddened when he heard about what happened in Boston. The threat of terrorism has crossed his mind.

“I’ve heard it said that if you change your lifestyle you give terrorists more power,” he said. “I try to keep living.”

Edmond resident Jena Walla, who finished her first marathon in Kansas a week before the Boston Marathon bombing, got her running club involved in a Boston Strong 5K in honor of the victims. Runners from several different clubs began Monday evening at First and Littler and made a loop through Edmond.

A week ago, Walla said she was taking the day off to recover from finishing the marathon in Kansas when she learned about the Boston Marathon bombing. Then she found out about the Boston Strong movement, which was a way for her to honor the victims.

“I was really passionate about wanting to do something,” she said.

The event is a way to unite as a community and to show that Americans will not be defeated, Walla said.


The bombers interrupted countless lives and prevented some marathoners from finishing the race.

About a half dozen runners will finish the Boston Marathon during the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. They will run the entire Oklahoma City marathon. They include:

• Milwaukee Police Inspector Carianne Yerkes made it 25.9 miles before she was forced to quit. Yerkes and her husband Milwaukee Police Sgt. Rick Yerkes will both run in Oklahoma City.

• Andrew Longoria, of Medway, Mass., was 300 yards from the finish line. He has completed about 15 marathons. This was his sixth Boston Marathon.

• Chau and Michael Smith, of Oak Grove, Mo., Chau was about a mile from the finish line when she had to quit. They will both run in Oklahoma City.

At the finish line, the Boston Marathon runners will receive an Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon medal and finisher’s T-shirt.

Michael Smith said he was about a hundred yards away from the course when the first bomb detonated.

“I thought it was either a cannon or a bomb,” he said, noting firing a cannon would have been out of place for the marathon. “I deduced pretty quickly that it was a bomb sound.”

When the second bomb detonated, people were running away from the course while he kept going toward it. Police were moving people away from the affected area. 

“I was right there,” he said.

Smith said he soon received a text message from his wife, letting him know where she was and that she was OK. He had been following her progress through the Boston Marathon website. About 45 minutes later, they were reunited. A spectator had loaned her his phone and a sweatshirt to help her stay warm.

Smith said his wife was reading a post on the Internet when she learned about the Oklahoma City opportunity. He said it seems like the event, which honors victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, is the right thing to do.

“We’re looking forward to it,” he said.


Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon officials expect to have nearly 24,000 participants runs the 26.2-mile course, which passes through Oklahoma City, Nichols Hills and the Village. The event consists of a full marathon, half-marathon, relay, memorial 5K and a children’s marathon.

Officials have said they are monitoring information from law enforcement agencies and will make appropriate decisions for the race or any changes in security. Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said the marathon already has a safety and security plan in place.

“We stay with the race, during the race and after the race,” Nelson said. “We have people on the track, around the course and in the crowds watching the race. We have bomb techs assigned to this race and they have been assigned to this race since its inception.”

Chet Collier, race director, said organizers will work with city officials to ensure the safety of runners, volunteers, spectators and everyone involved with the race. | 341 2121, ext. 108