All the way to OKC
Tonganoxie runners take to Oklahoma City streets for first marathon
Justin Smith never was much of a runner when he attended Tonganoxie High School.
But now in his mid-20s, Smith's newfound hobby has taken him to Oklahoma City.
And, it just might carry him to Boston in about a year.
Smith, a member of the Tonganoxie Running Club, finished sixth in the 25-29 age division Sunday in Oklahoma City and placed 56th overall in the race.
The 1996 THS graduate finished the race in 3 hours, 17 minutes, 36 seconds. If Smith can shave off seven minutes from that time in another certified marathon, he would qualify for the granddaddy Boston Marathon next April.
"I just wanted to run it in 3:30," Smith said.
He made that goal and now could establish another, although plenty of pain accompanied Smith's respectable finish.
"My legs were cramping up pretty bad," Smith said. "I was glad to be done."
Just two days later, however, Smith was toying with the idea of finishing below the qualifying time.
"Once I figured out I was that close I thought I could probably pursue that," Smith said Tuesday. "I don't know when or what, but it's definitely an option."
Smith was one of 10 Tonganoxie Running Club members to invade the Sooner State for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Along with Smith, Debbie Zerrer, Erica Clark, Jill Rogers and Ronda Andrews ran the approximate 26-mile marathon. In the marathon relay, which requires teams of two to each run 13 miles, Mark Zerrer and LeRoy Andrews competed in the relay. Alexa Ferguson and Pam Mooberry also had a team and fellow club member Mike Frye ran with a friend in the marathon relay.
Clark and Rogers were alongside each other the entire race. They crossed the finish line together, although their official times, which are recorded by chips runners must wear on their shoes, showed two different finishes -- Rogers, 4:57:08; and Clark, 4:57:10.
"It was very surreal, kind of like dream-like," Rogers said. "It was hard to believe that we had done it."
Clark said it was an amazing feeling completing the course.
"I was so thrilled that we finished and did it under five hours," Clark said. "Neither one of us had aches or pains, but we were so exhausted.
"You just feel like everything was depleted."
Running 26 miles can have that effect on a runner.
On what Clark said was a beautiful day in Oklahoma City, the local runners made their way to the starting line.
And at various stations, family members were right there cheering on their runners.
Clark's husband, Chuck, surprised his wife with signs he had made at a copier store.
Erica's son Benjamin, 7, had a sign that said WE LOVE. Taylor, Erica's 10-year-old daughter, finished the message with a sign that read YOU MOM.
Another sign read "We're proud of you," a message that brought a few tears to Erica's eyes.
According to the marathon Web site, www.okcmarathon.com, 1,476 people finished the marathon and divisions ranged from 19-and-younger to 80-and-older.
Among all those runners and even more spectators, Rogers said it was special seeing a handful of familiar Tonganoxie faces along the course.
"It was just a perfect weekend with friends," Rogers said. "Family members of people running drove to different mile markers as we ran by."
One family member even had something to tell his mother after she finished the race.
Benjamin Clark greeted Erica with three words.
"He said, 'You smell weird,'" Erica said.
Getting ready for Sunday's marathon actually took about a half-year for some.
Rogers ran in the Gobbler Grind half-marathon in Kansas City, Mo., in late November.
"That kind of was the start of my training for the marathon," Rogers said.
Mooberry and Ferguson also competed in that half-marathon.
Clark and Rogers ran together in the marathon, but also trained together. Clark said she referred to a book by runner Jeff Galloway on how to train for marathons.
The duo ran a few times during the week and then ran for distance on weekends, including 22 miles three weeks before the marathon in north Lawrence.
Smith had a similar regiment. He would run three times during the week and take out on longer jaunts on weekends, including a 20-mile run three weeks ago. Clark and Rogers followed up with a 10-mile run two weeks before the marathon and an 8-mile run the week before.
Interested in running
Most running club members who ran the marathon seemed to have a common thread -- Tonganoxie's Midwest Athletic Club.
Rogers, Clark and Smith all said they joined the running club because of Debbie Zerrer, who works at the athletic club. After joining the health club, they then joined the running club, which Debbie and Mark Zerrer organized.
Rogers has been running for seven years, but started doing longer distances when she joined the running club.
"I hated it in junior high and high school," Rogers said.
But after a friend got her involved in running, she has been running ever since.
Clark actually discovered running at home.
One Saturday she jogged from her house to the end of the road, which was about 1.5 miles and realized it was a bit therapeutic.
"Wait a minute, when I'm doing this I'm not answering a phone, not refereeing an argument or getting someone something to drink," Clark said. "This is my time."
Running also has become a social outlet.
The Tonganoxie Running Club has about 20 members who meet at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays at the Tonganoxie Junior High.
Debbie Zerrer, who has run in the Oklahoma City marathon before, said anyone is welcome to join the club by either showing up for a run or calling her at (913) 845-2900.
"New members don't have to be fast or running marathons," Zerrer said. "Anyone can join."
Oklahoma City Bombing
The marathon was dedicated to the victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people.
Rogers said some people were running in the marathon in memory of those who had died in the blast.
"I'm so glad I chose that one for the first one because of the case," Rogers said about her inaugural full marathon.
Rogers visited the memorial the day before the marathon, which started and ended about a block from the memorial.
"So many things about it were symbolic," Rogers said. "I'd like to go back and spend more time there because I didn't go to the museum because of time."
The next marathon will be. . . .
Running non-stop for three to five hours usually doesn't get the brain in gear to be thinking about accomplishing the feat again.
Still, the local runners haven't ruled out future marathons.
Rogers, after all, referred to Sunday's marathon as her first. Future marathons, however, will depend on how much free time she has available. Rogers has two children: Brendan, 2, and Nolan, who is 10 months.
"I definitely want to do one next year, if time allows," Rogers said. "It was such a great experience."
Whether it's a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or a marathon, one thing usually is for certain -- there will be more than one Tonganoxie Running Club member there.
"When you get a group of goofy people together who like to run, it's kind of amazing what you can talk each other into," Clark said.
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