"Picture the finish line."
Races excite us. They give us a goal to work toward. Their atmospheres consist of joy, encouragement, excitement and persistence. But they also challenge us. So, we train our minds to try to think about other things. The gallon of water we'll drink later, a nice cold shower, a nap... or maybe, the finish line. At the finish line, we're surrounded with people we may or may not know, cheering us on, celebrating our finish, despite the time, our experience, what we're wearing or whose team we're on. It's often a joy-filled moment topped off with an incredible sense of accomplishment. It's what brings us back each time. It's what drew Darci to invite others to join in on the fun.
After a semester at Harding University, Darci Grisso Thompson graced OC's campus with her deep love for people and passion for growth. She characteristically became a leader, directing a Tri-Theta Spring Sing show and making a name for herself on campus. After graduating in 2000, Darci quickly felt called to pursue a career at OC. She worked in Admissions, seeking out students who belonged on campus as well as staff members whose talents would benefit OC. With an enchanting charisma and belief in the campus mission, few dared to deny Darci.
"Darci was so infectious, she was very enthusiastic," Assistant Athletic Director and friend Teresa DeBoard said. "When she was passionate about something, she wanted to share it with anyone."
Soon after, her passion for campus growth manifested itself into a health and wellness program for OC. Inspired by her husband Mark's love for fitness, Darci saw a need on campus that she called on herself to fill.
“Love is what created ‘Darci the Runner,’” longtime friend Summer Lashley said about Darci’s transition into Team OC.
Darci wanted the Team OC program to be about making OC a healthier campus for faculty, staff and students. It wasn't about winning. Darci fiercely wanted to compete, but not with others as much as she wanted each person challenging themselves. Even more than that, Darci established Team OC to be a space that advocated for mental and spiritual health as well as physical.
So she did just that.
Darci built Team OC as a place where the campus community could find accountability, attend fitness classes, take advantage of the Dub, participate in motivating fitness challenges and, the big one, run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Each year, since 2006, Team OC brings a team of runners (and walkers) to participate in the annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. With no application or entry requirements, the marathon allows people of all levels to compete. In the early days, while just a few people participated, Darci committed to making it a valuable and memorable experience. She loaded up a truck full of Team OC relay racers and dropped them off at their hand-off zones. She had signs made to cheer them on. Some people had whistles. And it wasn't long until more people were enchanted and wanted in on the fun.
Team OC began to grow and quickly became one of (if not THE) largest groups to compete in the marathon year after year. Darci had a seemingly magic way about her that made people feel like they could do anything, or at least they couldn't find an excuse not to, and so the team continued to grow.
"If you were in the room with her, you were her best friend," DeBoard said.
Her way with people came in handy throughout her time at OC. She helped people find their calling on campus. She raised money for Team OC and the Dub (OC's newly renovated fitness center) through her charisma and passion for the program. And people saw that passion and didn't think twice about giving. Darci made even the most intricate challenges look easy.
In 2013, Darci received a cancer diagnosis while pregnant with her second daughter, Tallulah. While the news hit hard, Darci, in classic Darci fashion, began to fight for more than herself. She began raising awareness for cancer, and Team OC, if anything, grew in importance.
“It was never about just running the marathon,” friend Risa Forrester said. “That’s the last thing it was about.”
Despite her diagnosis, she continued to live the most faithful, encouraging life she could. She fought hard when illness hit hard. She faithfully invested in her friends. She continued to lead Team OC. Her race was not yet complete, and Darci encouraged others in their’s. She faithfully led Team OC as the Director of Wellness and brought many more teams to the marathon and many more people into healthier lifestyles.
In February 2020, Team OC lost a force of nature, but her legacy lives on. Darci lives within her husband Mark and daughters Tinley and Tallulah, closest friends, Team OC and the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. She’s remembered for her determination, heart, charisma, competitiveness and faith, so much so that many of her friends still pursue their health journey in her honor.
This year, we invite you to join #TeamDarci. We hope to have over 600 participants on Team OC this year, and we want you to be one of them! You don't need to be a seasoned athlete or to have run a race before. As long as you have a pair of tennis shoes and comfortable clothing, you're fit for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Challenge yourself! Join a relay team, run the 5k, tackle the half or conquer the full.
We're blessed to be able to fully celebrate Darci's life and legacy this year, and we hope you'll join us.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1