Community reminisces as long-time race comes to an end

On a brisk, windy morning across southern Oklahoma just under 900 runners participated in the Arbuckles to Ardmore race.

Runners from all skill sets started their morning in the beautiful scenery of the Arbuckle mountains and raced to Noble Stadium at Ardmore High School.

It is the tenth and final year of the A2A, a race benefiting the Mercy cancer center in Ardmore, and the brainchild of race director Alison Smalley, Ardmore.

Smalley, like millions of people across the country, has been affected by cancer. Smalley lost a brother, a sister, her dad and several other extended family members to the disease. But instead of letting the loss of loved ones keep her down, Smalley used the opportunity to lift others up.

“I have spent a lifetime raising money to fight cancer because of family history,” Smalley said. “I wanted to create an event where we could fight cancer, and all the money remain local. At that time, they were talking about building a cancer center here in Ardmore so I wanted to start the A2A to raise funds that would be raised here in Ardmore and stay here in Ardmore.”

Each year since the A2A started, the race has raised over $100,000 per year and eclipsed the $1 million mark for the 2019 race.

All the money raised from the race has gone to the Mercy Cancer Center.

“Mercy has been great since day one,” Smalley said. “They were thrilled at the idea of hosting a running event, and each year has been more and more rewarding. It has been a great collaboration.”

Creating the marathon and organizing an event of this size takes a group effort. Several volunteers from around the area have donated their time over the last ten years to help the event grow and run smoothly on race day.

Don Garrett, of Oklahoma City, has been helping the A2A since its beginning in 2009. Garrett, owner of DG Racing Company that times races like the A2A, is sad to see the long-time race come to an end but is happy he was a part of the cause from the beginning.

“It has been great to have this, and we have become a part of this,” Garrett said. “It is not just a job — we do it out of a passion for the event. They are going out on a high note and have done an excellent job.”

Another ten-year volunteer is Bob Bates, Ardmore. Runners will recognize Bates as the man at the post-race refreshment area.

Bates was happy to volunteer his time to the A2A, because it was a great way to give back to the community and with benefits going to a cause that has affected his family.

“It is a bittersweet moment, the A2A is coming to an end,” Bates said. “Some of us are aging out and retiring and it is time to do something different. Seeing some friends, family and work associates finish this race that have never run a half or full marathon in their life it is very cool, just to see people achieve things they never thought was possible.”

The A2A has brought people together from all different backgrounds throughout the year. In this year’s 20.6 mile race, winner Jason Swift traveled far to participate.

Swift, originally from Ireland, moved to Edmond to attend the University of Central Oklahoma in 2011.

Swift participated in five half marathons before testing his endurance in the 20.6, which is the longest race he has ever participated in.

“It was nice until the very end — I nearly died,” Swift said. “It was pretty nice compared to a lot of other races, and the hills were nice.”

The winner of the A2A marathon was a familiar face in the winner’s circle. Jason Butler, Oklahoma City, crossed the finish line at the two hour and thirty five minute mark, claiming the top spot for the second time.

Butler has participated in the A2A twice and has run over 25 total marathons. With the A2A coming to an end, Butler will be known as the final winner of the marathon. However, Butler will always have fond memories of the A2A.

“I was gunning for the record, but I just didn’t have it in me,” Butler said.” I am sad it is coming to an end, I like the small townness of it. My mom and dad grew up down in this area.”

After raising over a million dollars for the cancer center, Smalley will always be proud of what the A2A has not only done for cancer, but for area runners looking for a place to enjoy their sport. The memories made will last Smalley for the rest of her life.

“It has been the most wonderful blessing,” Smalley said. “All the wonderful people I have worked with over the years and all the wonderful runners who have come across the finish line telling me they wish it wasn’t over and what a quality run Ardmore has hosted over the years. It makes me so proud what Ardmore has done for Ardmore, that is what I wanted when we started it and we have raised a lot of money out of the generosity of sponsors and supporter. It is a very bittersweet day for me.”