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We were invited to run the A2A Marathon in Ardmore, Oklahoma, by the race director -Alison Smalley.
MTA was the race’s official training partner and was even featured on the local news!
After running 23 marathons I must say . . . small town races have a special place in my heart. The A2A Marathon is friendly, well organized, and unpretentious.
Ardmore seems like the kind of place you would want to raise a family and the race volunteers are the sort of folk you would want as neighbors.
I went there expecting to make some new friends, run another marathon and enjoy a nice (kid free) weekend with Trevor. I didn’t expect to hear what they told me as I crossed the finish line (keep reading to find out).
What We Love About the A2A Marathon
The 5th Annual A2A Marathon was held on March 30, 2014. This race works to raise money for the local Mercy Hospital Cancer Center. All race costs are covered by registration fees and every penny raised from sponsors goes directly to the cancer center.
In addition to the marathon they feature a kids marathon, 5k, and ½ marathon and the races draw runners from 25 states. There were approximately 1,200 runners for all events with a little over 100 doing the full marathon.
We arrived in Ardmore late Friday night and checked into the hotel. The next day we walked next door to the convention center where the race expo was being held and officially met Allison, her husband Steve, and other race staff.
One thing that stands out with this race is how friendly and accommodating everyone was. The expo had a surprising amount of booths and vendors and there was a bounce house set up for kids. We got a nice long sleeve tech shirt, chapstick and a few other items in the swag bag. A free pre-race pasta dinner was held at the convention center as well. We were able to meet MTA listeners Brandon and Megan from Perry, OK at the dinner.In the afternoon we drove the race course which travels along highway 77. We visited the scenic Turner Falls and hiked around. It was a beautiful day and this area offered camping, hiking, swimming, as well as rock dwellings built into the side of the mountains.
The Starting Line
On race morning buses to the starting line for both the full and half marathon left the stadium (where the finish line was located). Parking was easy and we were able to get a gear check bag (as the morning was chilly) for our stuff. We boarded our respective buses and went to the starting line. The marathon started at Turner Falls Park and the half started along Hwy 77. Near the starting line I got to meet Rhonda from TX and Mike and Cathy, MTA listeners, along with some fellow Maniacs.
There were plenty of port-a-pots at the starting line and we were able to stay on the buses until just a couple minutes before the marathon began to stay warm.
The marathon course went slightly downhill for the first mile and then had some hills from miles 2-3. The weather was in the low 50’s at the start—perfect running weather, but there was already a strong headwind blowing.
Aid stations were approximately ever 2 miles until mile 12 and then every mile thereafter. There weren’t many spectators along the course but the friendly volunteers at the aid stations were enthusiastic and encouraging.
Toward the later part of the marathon aid stations offered bags of ice and wet sponges (which were a life saver). There were also port-a-pots every half mile toward the second half of the race. The main thing that stuck out to me was that this was a very well organized race, one that was clearly put on by runners.
Out and Backs
On the marathon course there was a 3.5 mile out and back through the Bar Nothin’ Ranch. This was a highlight of the course—being able to run through this beautiful ranch with horses running along the fence.
We then ran along Hwy 77 until we came to another out and back section at the City Park from miles 20-25. This was the hardest stretch for me because the turn off for the out and back section was near the turn to the finish line. The heat, hills and headwind had begun to catch up with me by then and I was ready to be done.
The Finish Line
Something Unexpected . . .
I was running near another woman around mile 21 when a race official called “you’re number 2 and 3.” I was thinking “2 and 3 what?” Soon I realized that I’d only seen one woman in front of me and he meant that we were the women near the front of the pack.
I was able to pass the woman running near me and maintain a steady pace despite the fact that I felt like I was running in place at times. The wet sponge was amazing and I was literally dousing myself with water to stay cool.
The finish line was located at the 50 yard line of Noble Stadium and we ran by spectators to get into the stadium and then took a lap around the track. Mark Bravo, an announcer from Oklahoma City, was there to call out finishers names and the race director was at the finish line to congratulate people.
I finished in 3:57:17 as the second place woman and 20th overall. Trevor finished the Valero Fast Half in 1:47:34.
They gave out nice finishers medals and then I got to my favorite part—the post-race food which consisted of sports drinks, water, cinnamon rolls, apples, bananas, McDonalds snack wraps, snickers bars, and pretzels. I later received my prize for the 2nd place finish–a pair of Oakley sunglasses and accessories!
I went and got my gear check bag and found Trevor who had already showered and been to church (it’s amazing what he can accomplish between finishing a half marathon and waiting for his wife). We checked out of our hotel room and went and got some great BBQ.
The A2A Marathon is well organized and has awesome course support. This is one event that will continue growing in the coming years!
Our thanks to Alison and all the great volunteers for making this such a fun weekend! You guys rock!