Hunt listened as a preacher told the runners who had gathered in the dark for a blessing before the race that they didn't need to think about the path ahead. A higher power would carry them onward.
He encouraged them to think of each breath as "a sublime gift" from above.
Hunt didn't meet him, but standing elsewhere beneath the tree was Tom Kight, a 74-year-old Oklahoma City man dressed in a red pullover, in honor of Boston's Red Sox. (He couldn't find the socks, which many runners in Oklahoma City wore as a tribute to the victims in Boston.) He comes to this spot every year to remember his stepdaughter, Frankie Ann Merrell, who was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
The service beneath the tree is a highlight of Kight's year. He loves the sunrise, the anticipation. The powerful symbolism of running for progress.
"Runners are like the wind," he said. "There's nothing that stops them."
Kight, who has knee problems that prevent him from running, has made it his personal mission to ensure that the names of all 168 Oklahoma City bombing victims appear on the jerseys of runners in the race.
It's important to him that the victims' names live on. Seeing the names gives new life to those who died here. And it brings him incredible comfort.
"We're not going to forget the people in Boston," he said. "You can rest assured."
'We will finish this race'
If the bombing wasn't already on Hunt's mind, it would have been impossible to escape it in the early morning hours in Oklahoma City.
Helicopters circled like buzzards. Police were everywhere. A moment of silence was held for the victims -- 168 seconds for Oklahoma City; three for Boston.
And then there was the location.
The race starts where the Alfred P. Murrah building once stood -- until the bombing on April 19, 1995. The memorial to that site -- a field with one empty chair for each victim and two large metal gates, marked 9:01 and 9:03, bookending that moment in time -- butts right up against the starting line.
The race begins on the 9:03 side, a symbol of moving forward.
But it's also a reminder that tragedy can strike anywhere, anytime.
Crowds were thick as more than 25,000 runners geared up to start. Some ran in quick circles to get loose. Others leaned on each other for warmth. One man swooshed his hips around in a hula-hooping motion. (Aren't these people about to get enough exercise?) A man barked over a loudspeaker in a voice that seemed more fit for a football stadium: "We stand as one, showing the world that good always overcomes evil ..." the voice said. "We will finish this race."
Even at the start, Hunt was unwaveringly sure she could do just that.
"I have good endurance," she told me beforehand. "I don't give up on things."
She wore a "Boston Strong" sign on her stomach and her race number from the April 15 Boston Marathon on her back. Two Boston bracelets dangled on her wrist.
Her get-up attracted the attention of another Boston runner, who decided to run the start of the race by her side. It turned out both had been turned around by the blast in Boston at nearly the same time. Both offered words of encouragement, Hunt told me. Together, they vowed to cross the finish, for themselves and for Boston.
'I couldn't move'
It wasn't long before Hunt's new running mate had left her behind. She didn't take offense at that -- this was her race and she intended to run it on her own terms.
The cheers of the crowd fueled her.
About an hour into the race, Hunt ran by Terri Talley, 45, who was dumping pitcher after pitcher of a yellow sports drink into tiny paper cups. Others passed the cups to the runners. Down the road, volunteers used rakes to scrape the empty cups into piles, as if they were cleaning up leaves from an autumn yard. "Celebration" was playing on an outdoor sound system when I walked up. A woman cheered through a megaphone. Others danced with pom-poms.
She doesn't tell any of the runners about it, but Talley, a peppy woman with blond highlights in her hair and small rhinestones on the temples of her glasses, worked on the third floor of the building that was bombed in 1995.