By Tim Talley
The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — Organizers of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon said Monday they intend to hold this month’s race as planned but will cancel the event if they are not confident runners will be safe.
The 13th annual race, part of an annual remembrance for the 168 people killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, is set for April 28. The 18th anniversary of the bombing is Friday.
“I think this city has been through enough. It makes us all sick that you cannot have a public event without a threat,” said Kari Watkins, the executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. “We will proceed as the race is still being planned. We also don’t want to be careless with our decisions.
Chet Collier, the race’s director, said he is comfortable with security plans for the race but that it can be canceled if a security threat is detected. The race is expected to draw 24,000 runners.
“We’re not afraid to cancel it if we feel threatened,” Collier said.
According to the Boston Marathon’s website, there were 86 Oklahomans registered for Monday’s race. Two explosions occurred near the finish line about four hours after the race started.
Phil Kenkel, 56, of Stillwater, said he was nearing the finish line when he saw “a great big blast.”
“It sounded like a big cannon, and there was a big plume of white smoke,” Kenkel told The Associated Press via telephone from his hotel in Boston. “Then the second bomb went off virtually right beside me.
“When I saw the first one, I knew something was wrong, but you were thinking maybe this was a massive prank. When the second one went off, then that’s when you start to feel sheer terror.”
Kenkel, who said he carried his cell phone with him during the race, called his family in Stillwater shortly afterward and let them know he was safe.
Jeff Beck, the general manager of Red Coyote Running and Fitness, said the store helped sponsor five participants in the Boston Marathon and learned that all five runners were safe via text message.
“They had completed the race and were out of the area at the time, so they didn’t know too much of what was going on,” Beck said.
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