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Oklahoma Christian in the 2021 OKC Memorial Marathon

Oklahoma Christian University had a number of participants in the 2021 OKC Memorial Marathon, including alums, track coaches and some of their marketing staff.

Oklahoma Christian alumna Layne Hammer won the women’s marathon.

Hammer began running in middle school but did not get serious about it until high school. The renewed dedication paid off, earning Hammer a scholarship to Oklahoma Christian, where she still holds five school records: the indoor mile, 3,000 meter run and 5,000 meter run, and the outdoor 1,500 meter run and 5,000 meter run.

Rather than continue running after graduation, Hammer pursued a job offer from Tinker Air Force Base.

A few years later, Hammer said another Oklahoma Christian alumna contacted her about the race.

“Tara Lewis, who is also an OC alumna, was like ‘hey, I’m training for the Boston Marathon. […] You should do it, too,’” Hammer said. “So, that kind of lit the fire and [I] have been doing it [training] since then. That was about two years ago.”

Hammer intended to compete in the 2020 Memorial Marathon, but COVID-19 cancellations interrupted those plans. Still, Hammer continued training, running shorter races in preparation. 

She said she won with support from Wade Miller, Oklahoma Christian’s track coach, and her parents.

“I think I just had a lot of people [that] believed in me,” Hammer said. “Miller, who’s still with me today, helping me out [and] my parents who I was really lucky were at the meet.”

Miller anticipated Hammer’s marathon success.

“I expected her to be top five and depending on the day and who shows up? You never really know,” Miller said. “But I thought she was capable of that kind of a race.”

Miller’s appearance at the marathon was twofold.

“I ran the half marathon,” Miller said. “[I] also wanted to be there to support a lot of friends that ran, a lot of people that were connected to the [track] program.”

Miller finished fourth in the half marathon.

Members of Oklahoma Christian’s marketing staff – Mandolin Skipworth, Mindy Stafford, and Tessa Wright – also competed.

Skipworth said Mindy prompted the idea.

“We signed up for it two and a half years ago and we decided to transfer it to this in-person one in October because they held it virtually last year,” Skipworth said.

Joined by two other former employees and alumni of Oklahoma Christian, they ran the full 26.2 miles as a five-member relay race consisting of two 5ks, two 10ks and a 12k. They finished 15th of 38 female relay teams.

Wright said she was excited to participate.

“It was really exciting to be a part of it and see all the meaning they put behind everything and that they really honor those lost that day,” Wright said. “It kind of gets you choked up and emotional thinking about it.”

That day, April 19, 1995, 168 people were killed in the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Five years later, as the memorial neared completion, the marathon was formed.

“The Oklahoma City National Memorial was in the final days of construction and once they realized that Oklahoma City needed a marathon, they said, ‘If we are going to do a marathon, let’s do it for the memorial,’” the OKC Memorial Marathon website said.

Their website also has a timeline for the marathon, and over the years, the marathon has grown in numbers, stories and meaning.

In 2003, more than 100 soldiers set up their own course in Iraq to run the race and honor the victims. In 2015, a record 25,000 runners took to the course. Some run to remember their own while some run as survivors; some olympians have run, too. The marathon has raised over a million dollars in proceeds for the memorial and museum and has been voted one of the 12 ‘must-run’ marathons in the world.

“The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon’s mission is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of those who were killed on April 19, 1995, and unite the world in hope,” the OKC Memorial Marathon website said. “This is not just another marathon. It is a Run to Remember.”

The next Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is scheduled for April 24, 2022.

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