By Matthew Berger
On Sunday, March 31, the final installment of the Arbuckles to Ardmore marathon will begin in the early hours at Turner Falls.
Ten years ago, the marathon came to southern Oklahoma, giving local runners a chance to compete with the best of the best and earn a spot in the prestigious Boston Marathon.
One of the runners to go on to the Boston Marathon was Scott Ownbey.
Ownbey, an Ardmore native, has participated in all but one of the A2A races. Overall, Ownby has competed in 15 marathons and eight half marathons.
Ownbey won the 20.6 mile course in 2016, while placing second in the marathon, making him eligible to participate in the 2016 Boston Marathon.
An avid runner, having a local marathon to participate in is everything for Ownbey.
“The A2A has just been fantastic,” Ownbey said. “I would say two of my top three moments running have been on this course. To have it in your hometown, it is just awesome. It is a smaller race, but they do just a great job with volunteers and aid stations to make sure all the runners are taken care of. They make everyone feel special from first place to last place.”
Participating in his final A2A, Ownbey has yet to decide on what race he will run, but hatever race he chooses, Ownbey knows what is needed to keep a good stride.
“Pray there is no south wind, it is really hard when there is a south wind,” Ownbey said. “Second, don’t get too carried away on those opening downhills, because those opening downhills give you a false sense of confidence. Have fun, enjoy the views and say hello and give high-fives at the aid stations.”
For people like Janis Kiser, of Sulphur, the race has a special meaning to her and her family.
Kiser, whose husband was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006, uses running as an escape from the stresses in her life. While her husband was receiving chemotherapy at the cancer center, Kiser saw a flyer for the A2A saying it benefited the cancer center.
“I saw it benefited the cancer center so I thought, heck, why not,” Kiser said. “I had never ran a half marathon before so I thought it would be a good challenge and for a good cause.”
Kiser, who will now be participating in her 10th half marathon, feels blessed to feel healthy enough to run the races.
“My husband’s colon cancer metastasized to his lungs, so he had a hard time breathing,” Kiser said. “To me, when I am out there on course, I think about all the people who can’t do that. I’am just grateful God has blessed me with good health.”
Kiser has several fond memories of the A2A, but none more than running in her first. After her husband passed away in 2011, she still holds her first race closest to her heart.
“Obviously my favorite memory was the first one, when my husband was at the finish line,” Kiser said. “He passed away three weeks after the second one in 2011.”
Another 10-year participant is Gary Higgins, of Pauls Valley. Higgins, a runner for the past 16 years, first used running to stay healthy.
Running is fun for Higgins, but he also has a love/hate relationship with the A2A course.
“If there is a south wind, I hate it,” Higgins said. “Most of the time I love it, it is one of my favorite races.”
Higgins has participated in 14 Oklahoma City marathons, and tries to run three to four full or half marathons a year.
With this being the final year of the A2A, Higgins will cherish fond memories of the course, and the other runners.
“This is one of my favorites, it is why I have done it every year, It is good training for the Oklahoma City marathon and it is just a good group of people who run it,” Higgins said. “Running through the track just before the finish line is unique. I hate that it’s ending, I have really enjoyed it.”