OKLAHOMA CITY — The head of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on Tuesday invited runners who did not complete the Boston Marathon due to explosions near the finish line to participate in the 13th annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon — for free.
Executive Director Kari Watkins said the memorial would cover their entry fees for the April 28 race, but not travel costs.
"They can start where they finished or can run the full marathon. We have to work out the details with the Boston Athletic Club," Watkins told The Associated Press.
The Memorial Marathon winds 26.2 miles through Oklahoma City and surrounding communities and is the memorial's largest fundraiser, taking in about $1 million a year. It is a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.
About 23,000 runners participated in the Boston Marathon and nearly two-thirds had crossed the finish line when two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 100. Thousands of runners were still on the course and couldn't finish the race.
Watkins said about 24,000 runners are expected at this year's Memorial Marathon. Fewer than a dozen people had backed out since the Boston explosions, but Watkins said she didn't know why. She said it is common for runners to drop off in the days before the race because of inadequate training or personal conflicts.
She said she thinks people will be more determined to run after what happened in Boston.
"That is more a signal of defiance," Watkins said. "We're going to stand up together and show how terrorism did not win."
Friday, Oklahoma City will observe the 18th anniversary of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
"Oklahoma City as a community has spent two decades saying terrorists won't defeat us. This is an exclamation point on that," Watkins said.
Her words were echoed by Justin Daniels, who ran the Memorial Marathon in 2011 and 2012 and plans to run the half-marathon this year.
"Everybody I've talked to said the exact same thing," said Daniels, 33, assistant fire marshal at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. "All have said that they want to run more than ever. I think that's how runners are. You have to be certain type of person to run a marathon anyway."
Daniels said he became involved in the Memorial Marathon in part to set an example for his young son, born in October 2010.
"What kind of example would I be for my son now if I quit?" he said. "We have to overcome our fears and if I have to be the first one to put my toe on the starting line, then I'll do it."
Gov. Mary Fallin, at a bill signing Tuesday, expressed condolences to Boston.
"We as Oklahomans know the hurt and the pain that comes with any type of attack on our citizens," she said.