On November 18th, I ran the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa. This was the third time I did this race. More importantly, it was my third marathon in Oklahoma, allowing me to complete my third circuit of marathons in all 50 states.
I couldn’t get a flight on Saturday that arrived in time for packet pickup, so I had to fly to Tulsa Friday afternoon. I stayed at the downtown Doubletree, which is the official host hotel. The hotel has an airport shuttle, so I didn’t have to rent a car.
My flight arrived early, and I didn’t have to wait long for the next shuttle, so I got to the hotel in time to walk over to the expo. The expo was held at the Tulsa Convention Center, which is right across the street from Doubletree.
When I did this race before, the race packet included a T-shirt. This year, we got a jacket instead. I have lots of T-shirts, so it was nice to get something different.
This race has a post-race VIP area for members of the 50 States Marathon Club and Marathon Maniacs. They call it “Maniac Corner.” While I was at the expo, I stopped by the booths of both clubs, and I got a wrist band for admission to Maniac Corner after the race.
My friends, Karen and Robert, were also staying at the Doubletree, so I was able to join them for dinner. We went to a downtown pizzeria called Joe Momma’s.
I had trouble sleeping that night because my room was too warm. I had the air conditioning on, but it didn’t seem to be working. Saturday morning after breakfast, I asked to have the hotel engineer look at it. It took him all of two minutes to find the problem and fix it.
There’s a spot in downtown Tulsa called the “Center of the Universe.” It’s a small concrete marker inside a circle of bricks. The marathon has an optional out-and-back detour that takes you to the center of the universe. If you choose to do this, it adds three tenths of a mile to your race distance. I opted not to take the Center of the Universe detour during the race, so I walked over there on Saturday instead.
What makes the Center of the Universe noteworthy is an acoustic anomaly. If you stand in the center, you can hear your own voice echo loudly, but people outside the circle don’t hear the echo.
The sun was directly behind one of the downtown buildings, so I also noticed an interesting optical effect.
Around noon, I walked back over to the expo, where I bumped into my friends Heather, Krista, and Brian. I joined them for lunch at a café in the Brady Arts District and we spent the afternoon walking around downtown.
For dinner, I went to a pre-race party in honor of Jim Diego and Ray Constantine. Jim was finishing his journey to not only run marathons in all 50 states, but also sing the National Anthem in all 50 states. Ray was finishing his quest to run half marathons in every state. It was a buffet-style dinner at Ti Amo Ristorante.
Saturday night, my room was much more comfortable. I slept well for a few hours, but then I woke up and my brain went into pre-race checklist mode. Did I remember to unpack my headband? Which bag is that in? What time to I need to leave the hotel? I never got back to sleep.
I finally got up at 5:15. It was 37 degrees and rainy when I woke up, but it looked like the rain might stop before the race. I got dressed and went downstairs for a light breakfast.
By the time I left the hotel, it was no longer raining, but there was about a 30% chance of a passing shower during the race. The temperature had cooled to 35 degrees, and it wasn’t going to get any warmer. I often seem to get this kind of weather. I don’t know if it will rain or not, and it’s cold enough that it makes a big difference. My choices were to either wear a rain poncho or just dress real warm and hope it wouldn’t rain. I opted to just dress real warm.
As I left the hotel, I started to feel a fine mist in the air. I briefly considered going back to get a rain poncho, but I didn’t think I had enough time. As I crossed a street, I felt a strong gust of wind. I had been worried about rain, but I should have been worried about the wind. It felt much colder than I expected.
They had a gear check, so I checked a bag with a warm poncho that I wanted to have after the race. I didn’t want to spend too much time standing outside in the wind, so I waited as long as possible before entering my start corral. While I waited, I stayed near the entrance of one of the nearby building, so I wasn’t exposed to the wind.
There were four start corrals. Corral assignments are based on an estimated finish time that you provide when you register. I entered the race a long time ago, so I didn’t have any idea how fast I might run it. I probably gave an estimate of four hours, but I don’t remember.
I was assigned to corral B. After entering through the back, I worked my way forward, looking for pace groups. My last four marathons have all been faster than four hours, so my goal was to keep that streak going. I was behind a 4:30 pace group, so I kept moving forward. Then I saw a 4:15 group. I continued to move up. When I got to the front of the corral, I saw the 4:00 group. Everyone planning to run faster than four hours was in corral A.
While we were waiting for the race to start, I got to hear Jim singing the Star Spangled Banner. It’s the first time I’ve heard him sing. He sang the anthem for two different waves at the New York City Marathon two weeks ago, but not the wave I was in.
Corral A started at 8:00 AM sharp. Those of us in corral B had to wait another minute or two before we were allowed to move forward. Then we were held at the starting line until 8:05 before our corral started. By the time I started running, everyone from corral A was around the first turn and out of sight. It occurred to me that if I went out faster than a four hour pace, I might be running by myself. That’s not good when there’s a strong wind. You want to be surrounded by other runners.
As it turns out, I was never running by myself. I went out ahead of the 4:00 pace group, but there were plenty of runners in my corral who went out faster. I tried to just run my own race and find a pace that felt fairly comfortable.
As I made the first turn, I immediately felt a strong headwind. I was running downhill, so the wind didn’t feel tiring, but it was cold.
The terrain for most of the race was gently rolling hills. There were no killer climbs, but we often alternated between a few blocks of gentle upgrade and a few blocks of gentle downgrade.
The first mile was mostly downhill, so it was a little fast. It only took 8:05. As soon as the course turned uphill, I slowed down. I tried to maintain a consistent effort, so I sped up a bit going downhill and slowed down going uphill. As a result, my mile times were erratic, but even my slow miles were fast enough to break four hours.
By the second mile, I was already passing some of the slower runners from corral A. That was surprising, since they started five minutes before me. Since most of the runners from my own corral were behind me, I soon found myself surrounded mostly by corral A runners. As a result, I was passing other runners throughout the race.
I was only two miles into the race when I noticed the first beer stop. The race organizers encourage local residents to set up their own tables with snacks and beverages for the runners. The race even provides “block party kits.” I’ve stopped for beer occasionally in races, but it was much too early for that. In the next few miles, I started to notice tables with Jell-O shots.
A few miles into the race, I wasn’t feeling the wind as much. Going up a hill, I actually felt like I was warming up. I was wearing a light jacket that was mostly unzipped, so it wouldn’t cover my race bib. After about five miles, I unzipped it completely. That was premature.
At about six miles, I noticed another table with beer and two more tables with Jell-O shots. If you indulged everywhere alcohol was available, you could get seriously drunk doing this race.
At seven miles, I saw some port-o-potties with no lines and decided to make a quite bathroom stop. I might have been able to hold out until the end of the race, but I was more comfortable after stopping. As I resumed running, I saw another spectator offering small cups of pretzels and … you guessed it … Jell-O shots.
With the next turn, I was once again going directly into the wind, and I quickly got cold. My hands were too cold to zip up my jacket, so I had to endure the cold as best I could. The next several miles were all exposed to the cold wind.
Each time I’ve done this race, the course has been different. One of the additions this year was this tunnel under a relatively new land bridge.
After the tunnel, I realized my sunglasses were coated by a fine mist. Apparently, it started drizzling lightly. Fortunately, it didn’t last long.
After another mile or so, we came onto a parkway alongside the Arkansas River. Near the river, I really felt the wind. As we I got closer to the downtown area, I saw some long bridges across the river. I knew we had to cross the river, and I realized the bridge would be completely exposed to the wind. I wasn’t looking forward to that.
Between 10 and 11 miles, I finally made the turn onto Southwester Boulevard and the bridge across the river. As soon as we crossed the river, we turned around and came back across the river again. It seemed cruel to make us spend so much time over the river in the cold wind, but this bridge is part of the historic Route 66. The course takes us all around the city, so we’re only on Route 66 for about a mile.
After taking this picture, I had trouble turning off my camera. My fingers were too cold to press the buttons, so I put my camera away for the rest of the race.
After crossing the bridge, we entered the downtown area and ran right past the Doubletree. I seriously need to make a list of all the races that have taken me right past my hotel.
Shortly after the 12 mile mark, the marathon and half marathon routes separated. We made a sharp right turn and I immediately felt a cold headwind again.
I reached the halfway point in 1:55:35, putting me on pace for a 3:51 finish. My legs were getting so cold they felt stiff. I wondered if that would slow me down in the second half.
As I got out of the downtown area, I started seeing more spectators offering beer or Jell-O shots. I continued to hold off. I was so cold that beer just didn’t seem appealing. I considered having a Jell-O shot, but not until later in the race.
Alongside the river and on the bridge, the course was relatively flat. East of downtown, I once again encountered rolling hills. I started to lift my effort going uphill as a way of warming up. It seemed to help. My legs no longer felt stiff.
At 15 miles, I saw a table with bottles of liquor. I looked closer and spotted a bottle of Fireball. I abruptly crossed the street to stop there, and they poured me a shot of Fireball. It warmed my throat, if nothing else.
I continued to run harder on the hills. It helped me cope with the cold, but it was tiring me out. I noticed my mile splits were getting slower, but I was still on a four hour pace.
Around 18 miles, I saw a sign that said, “Beer and Doughnuts.” I saw cups of beer, but no doughnuts. Then I saw someone walking out of his house with a fresh tray of doughnuts. I was tempted, but I kept running.
After another mile, I saw two more tables with Fireball shots. I was worried about getting hypothermic, so I didn’t think it would be a good idea to have any more alcohol. I didn’t know if it would impair my ability to stay warm.
As one of the residents was offering me a Fireball shot, I said, “I already had one. I can’t afford two.” He understood and nodded in agreement.
I saw one more table with Fireball shots and I lost count of the number with beer or Jell-O shots. I used to think the Rock ‘N’ Roll New Orleans Marathon was the ultimate party race. I was wrong.
As I made my way back toward downtown Tulsa, I expected the wind to be at my back. Maybe it was, but I was still freezing. I knew by know I would break four hours by a comfortable margin. Now it was just a struggle to endure the cold for a few more miles.
Between 23 and 24 miles, I made the turn onto Peoria Avenue, which would take us back into downtown. Along this street, I could see runners still going the other way. I saw a few familiar faces. They still had 12 miles to go. I couldn’t imagine being out in that cold wind for that much longer.
As I got back into downtown, the streets were familiar, but the wind was ferocious. In the last mile, I passed the street where some of the runners were turning to take the Center of the Universe detour. I was happy to keep going straight.
In the last mile, we took an underpass below some railroad tracks. The ramp on the other side was the first hill that really felt steep. As I got closer to the finish I saw a sign for 25.9 miles. The Center of the Universe detour is 0.3 miles, so for the people who took the longer route, this sign was actually 26.2. I pressed on and finished in 3:52:49. I slowed a little in the second half, but not much. I was pleased to have my fifth sub four hour marathon in seven weeks.
Shortly after I finished, a volunteer gave me a heat shield. I wanted to zip up my jacket, but my fingers were useless. He helped me get the zipper started.
Something I had forgotten about this race is they always have cool finisher medals. They change the design every year. The top part rotates.
My hands didn’t work well, so I was selective about post-race food. I had a slice of pizza and a bottle of protein drink. My race bib had coupons for two post-race beers, but I skipped that. My hands couldn’t hold a cup, and I didn’t want to drink anything cold.
After the New York City Marathon, I got a fleece-lined poncho. I brought it with me to this race, so I could have it in my gear bag. I had to ask the volunteer at the gear tent to untie my bag for me.
I made my way to Maniac Corner where they had a big tent. It wasn’t heated, but it provided shelter from the wind. Inside the tent, they had pizza, hot pasta, and two kinds of beer. I had a small sample of one, but holding a cup with cold beer made me start shivering. I didn’t feel like eating any more food yet.
After visiting with friends, I eventually had to leave the tent to walk back to the hotel with Karen and Robert. Our hotel was only a half mile from the start, but it was more than a mile from the finish area.
After taking a hot bath and changing clothes, I felt more like eating. I walked over to a Naples Flatbread Kitchen and Bar to have my post-race pizza. Then I went to a brewery a few blocks away for a post-race party with friends.
With this race, I finished my third circuit of marathons in all 50 states. Will I do a fourth circuit? I might as well. I’m already about halfway there.
Distance: 26.2 miles
Average Pace: 8:53
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras: 362
Completed circuits of 50 states: 3