‘Get Your Kicks on Route 66’ – the Route 66 Marathon, Tulsa, OK, November 20, 2011

I guess you have to be of a certain age to remember the old song (it’s really a tune from my parent’s generation) but it brings back memories of my cross-country trek several decades ago and it was hard to get the words out of my head this entire weekend. The longest driveable stretch of the Mother Road cuts through Oklahoma, right through Tulsa. The iconic flavor of this highway, combined with the special attention paid to Marathon Maniacs and 50 State Club members by the marathon organizers, made this a ‘must-do’ event for me.

Since I was using my frequent flyer miles, I left from my home regional airport early on Saturday morning, arriving in Tulsa just before noon. I met my friend Deb (her flight left from Orlando) in the ground transportation area. Fortunately, the our hotel, the Holiday Inn Downtown, provided a free shuttle to and from the airport; this was a big money saver. My room wasn’t ready yet so I deposited my suitcases in my friend’s room and in the hotel lobby we met up with Jim from Canada who showed us the way to the Expo, just a few blocks away. We headed straight for the packet pick-up table where we received our bibs, D-rings for our shoes, and a blue ss cotton tee shirt.

The Expo turned out to be larger than I expected, with a number of vendors and booths, but I was especially interested in visiting the Maniacs and 50 States Club exhibits. I met some of the original Maniacs (people like Steve Yee whom I had only read about on the club’s website) and talked to Paula Boone (she and her husband Steve were the founders of the 50 States Club) AND bought a Maniacs jacket and a long-sleeved tech 50 States finisher’s shirt. I hadn’t counted on spending so much money all at once but I could not resist. After all, I didn’t have to pay postage and I could wear the stuff right away (and I did). Meanwhile, we had worked up quite an appetite, so the three of us headed back to the hotel where I was able to check in, deposit all my goodies, and then take the hotel shuttle to a local shopping center where the we had a filling late lunch at Olive Garden. The weather was a balmy 72 degrees and the sun shone so brightly that I had to wear my sunglasses. This was soon to change dramatically.

Going up in the elevator, I met Joe, another Walking Board participant; we chatted a bit and made plans to meet in the D corral the next day. Returning to my room, sated and tired, I began my pre-race preparations: Chronotrack timing tag on shoe, bib on vest, clothes arranged in order of how I would put them on, snacks prepared, tissues folded to fit neatly in pockets, alarm set, and so forth. Then it was time to obsess about the weather. The temperatures were supposed to drop to the 30’s with accompanying thunderstorms. I added an additional long-sleeved jersey to my layers of clothes on the bed. I decided to use positive thinking techniques – IT WILL NOT RAIN, IT WILL BE SUNNY – and finally got to sleep.

Woke up early, had my bread and coffee, and dressed. Checked the weather outside and on the Weather Channel – there was no rain at all overnight, and only some scattered rain showers predicted for this morning (at least that part of my positive thinking mantra worked), but it was very cold, with wind chill in the 30’s. Maniacs were to meet at 7:30 by the starting line (right outside our hotel – thank goodness) for a group photo. I made my way through the crowds to the gathering of Maniacs; we stood shivering as cameras clicked away (at least one was by a professional photographer, the others from fellow Maniacs) and then I began to make my way to the Corral D, the last corral, several blocks from the starting line.

I headed towards the front of the empty corral. It seemed like most people were huddling together in the doorways of buildings. Soon I was joined by others and we anxiously waited for the starting gun.  This event has 3 races that all start at 8 am. The marathon and half marathon follow the same course for 13 miles, with a long portion on Riverside Drive along the Arkansas River, then the half veers off towards the finish line while the full continues on through several business areas, parks, and residential areas as well as the campus of the University of Tulsa. The relay follows the marathon course and has 4 exchange stations; relay runners have ‘relay’ bibs worn on their back. This is helpful to me, since so often the new relay runners speed by me on their ‘fresh legs’ that it can be very demoralizing. Then when I realize that they are relay participants and just started their segment of the race, I understand their speed.

Anyhow, as we were all waiting for the starting gun, it soon became clear that we were to be released in waves. There were at least 5 minutes between the release of each corral, so those of us in D were forced to wait for over 15 minutes in the icy cold. I had to cover my face with my mittens to try and keep warm. For the first 2 miles, I could not feel my legs at all. This made it difficult to walk and impossible to run. Around mile 3, I could finally move somewhat normally and tried to make up some time. Meanwhile, I saw Joe on the course and we exchanged ‘hello’s’ as we took turns leapfogging each other. At some point, Joe asked a runner to take a photo of us with Joe’s camera and he graciously did so.

I was just a little ahead of Joe at the halfway point, and since Joe was doing the half while I was doing the full, I slowed a bit to let him catch up with me and I wished him luck on his sub-3 hour finish. Meanwhile, I was still freezing and had 13 miles more to go. Around mile 16.5, marathoners can choose to take .3 of a mile detour to the ‘Center of the Universe,’ a Tulsa landmark that is sponsored by Michelob Ultra, or they can simply follow the regular course. I decided to wait until I actually got to that point before I made up my mind whether or not to take the detour. Faced with having to make the decision, I opted to go for it. I turned down the free cup of beer handed to me (it would have put me to sleep) but I took the commemorative coin in my mittened hand, promptly dropped it (hands were still frozen), kind gentleman picked it up for me, and I managed to unzip my vest pocket and drop it inside.

I made it to the finish line in just under 6 hours (5:56:15), picked up my ss tech finisher shirt, and looked around for my special 50 State medal. Turns out we had to collect it in the special Maniac and 50 State tent a few yards past the finish line. Beautiful medal it is, too. There was not much food left for back of the pack finishers of the marathon but our special MM/50 State tent had an array of dishes, everything from soup to rice dishes. However, I was not really hungry, just cold (still), so I hurried to the shuttle buses and made my way back to the hotel, content to shower and rest. All in all, a good race, made particularly special because of the attention paid to the MM/50 state members, which I really appreciated.

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