This was the inaugural running of the Route 66 Marathon, and if our experience today is any indication of things to come, I’m sure it’s going to become a popular event. The course is scenic, much of itparalleling the Arkansas River, and has lots of variety, from running over three bridges, to running through the middle of the Riverwalk Crossing outdoor shopping plaza.
Before we started, I asked how many first time marathoners were in the group and was amazed at the number of hands that went up in the air. Several of them said they might not run the entire marathon and would just see how things went. I told them to hang with me in the back of the pack because the support vehicle always gets to that group first (i.e., we’d have food sooner). That’s my definition of running smart.
The gun went off, and away we went on a gorgeous Tulsa morning. Running with us today was a couple who’d flow in from New York city, it was her first marathon, a runner from California who’d just gotten off the redeye, a Chair from the Department of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma, who said he was going to try a half marathon, an Englishman who was running three of the fifty marathons with me, an Officer in the Canadian Air Force, a solider who’d just returned from active duty in Iraq, and survived a rocket attack while out on a training run, an elite marathoner who had recently survived cancer, an elite marathoner who was hoping to qualify for the Olympic trials in Chicago, and a hardy mix of enthusiastic runners and triathletes.
Support along the course today was excellent, both by our crew vehicle and by the Tulsa Police Department. There were lots of people cheering us on along the way, and one of the runners husband’s graciously surprised us by setting up little roaming aid stations at various locations.
True to what has become tradition during the marathon tour, we finished hand-in-hand, only this time the finish shoot wasn’t wide enough to accompany everyone in a line, so we formed one big undulating oval of sweaty, sticky, jubilant runners.
A couple things struck me about today’s group. One was the number of women participants (eleven, to be exact). They were so strong that I had to keep trying to rein them in or else they would have left me in the dust. The other was the number of first-time marathon finishers (eight to be exact). Those that intended on running their first marathon made it, those that were looking to see how things would go made it, and those who had no intention of running the entire marathon, like my friend from the University of Oklahoma, decided to go for it, and made it! I also learned, only at the finish, that the elite marathoner who had recently survived cancer was actually an elite runner of shorter distances, and this was her first marathon. And the scary thing is, she didn’t even look winded!
Waiting to cheer us in at the finish were the students of Bartlett Middle School. They had driven two hours in the school bus to get here, and had made up their own cheer for me, which they delivered inperfect tune. Their school was following the Endurance 50 as a lesson plan, and they showed me photo’s of the big poster board they had up in their classroom.
As we were packing up to head out, one of the runners approached me and thanked me for the remarkable experience he had today. He said that there are so many things in this world that divide people, but what we did today brought people together. Today we were untied, regardless of our race, creed or background.
All you seem to hear about in the news these days, he said, is the worst of human nature. Today, he said, I saw the best.
Still putting one foot in front of the other, and celebrating the best in human nature,