‘Strength to keep going’
OKC marathon welcomed by volunteers at church
Between hydration stations in front of Voice of Praise Baptist Church early Sunday morning, Carlen Rhone’s enthusiastic encouragement elicited smiles from runners otherwise fixated on the road and concentrating on their strides.
“Go Oklahoma runners!” she shouted. “We appreciate you! Thank you! Good job!”
Rhone got up around 4 a.m. to join volunteers who served water, sports drinks and pretzels to the thousands of runners along a stretch of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon winding its way through the northeast side for the first time.
For a mile, the Memorial Marathon cut through the Lincoln Terrace and Medical Community neighborhoods, a historically Black area near the state Capitol.
Pam Ramsey, a member of Voice of Praise at 2200 E Culbertson Dr., was the first to see the inbox email concerning the marathon having a water station at the church.
“I’m just excited,” she said during a break between waves of runners. “This is our first time participating and we had a good run this morning. It’s a community effort.”
More than 26 years after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, a global pandemic has gripped Oklahomans, with many lives lost and countless families impacted across the Sooner State.
Ramsey said that made Sunday’s run even more poignant.
“It’s just so positive,” she said. “Especially with COVID, it feels like they are doing something positive. You’re giving back and remembering. With this, you’re not looking at COVID numbers, you’re looking at running numbers.”
Indeed, remembrance and perseverance were intertwined Sunday.
“By us cheering for them, it gives them more strength to keep going,” Rhone said.
Tony Wise pastors Voice of Praise. He knew people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing, including a friend, a coach and a couple from church.
When he wasn’t handing out drinks or fist-bumping runners, Wise was praying and finishing his sermon preparation. The main passage was from Psalm 30, which includes the verse in the King James Version: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
“And that’s exactly what happened here,” Wise said.
Wise said his church of about 150 members was excited about the Memorial Marathon and being able to engage with the broader Oklahoma City community.
And he wouldn’t mind if runners stopped in for service.
“They can come,” he said. “That’s church.”