The Arkansas River was coming into view and the emotions of two years ago were flooding back inside of Katie Kramer.
Two years ago in Mile 17 of the 26.2-mile Prairie Fire Marathon, Kramer was in first place when she felt a shooting pain in her hip. The pain rapidly increased and forced her to limp the final third of the race on what would later be diagnosed as a hip stress fracture.
When Kramer saw the Arkansas River under the sun in perfect race conditions on Sunday, she experienced an adrenaline rush that she used to carry her to victory in the women’s full marathon in 2 hours, 59 minutes, 7 seconds.
“When I crossed the finish line today, I was running this time and I wasn’t limping,” said Kramer, a 33-year-old who trains in Oklahoma City. “I can’t explain how awesome of a feeling this is.”
In 2011, Kramer admitted she was too ambitious in trying to run two full marathons in two weeks. The Prairie Fire Marathon came just seven days after she ran in the marathon in St. George, Utah.
During the race in St. George, Kramer recalled feeling an uncomfortable twinge but didn’t think anything of it. She said she felt fine entering the race in Wichita, but realized the severity of the injury when she re-aggravated it during the race.
After the pain forced her to slow her pace in Mile 17, she was eventually forced to stop running completely and gather herself. She said she walked the remaining six miles to finish.
“But I wasn’t going to drop out,” Kramer said. “So I limped in.”
After the race she returned to Oklahoma City, where she works as the community coordinator at Red Coyote Running and Fitness, and rehabilitated herself with the training staff there.
The training has Kramer back in elite shape and it showed on Sunday, as she dominated the race by taking control early and putting a sizable distance between her and the female competition.
Instead of being a setback, Kramer used the injury as motivation to return to Wichita and replace a bad memory with a good one.
“I was so sad here two years ago and this year I was so happy,” Kramer said.
The final nine miles of the race wrap around the Arkansas River, a stretch where Kramer said she rekindled the memories of her last finish for motivation.
It was Kramer’s 11th career marathon victory.
“All I could think about was being in the lead and seeing all those people passing me,” Kramer said. “That was kind of devastating. I definitely think it made me run faster today because of it.”
Next across the finish line was Zanae Baird, who qualified for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:04:02 — four minutes shy of Baird’s “life goal” of breaking three hours.
Baird moved to Wichita in January after a successful running career at Fort Hays State and now teaches running classes at First Gear.
“It was a great day for racing,” Baird said. “There were a ton of people here from my classes and it was really awesome to feel the support of everyone and be able to support everyone as they finish.”