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It has been a whirlwind of running this go-round for the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This year I was chosen to be a race ambassador, so during my training I did basically what I’e been doing naturally: talking non-stop about the race and sharing how much fun I’ve had participating in the race. Only this time, I had my race fee sponsored doing so.
Leading up to the race, I chose to do the same training schedule I did for the OKC Memorial Marathon this year: It was basically Hal Higdon’s intermediate 1 plan with a few extra miles thrown in. Unlike for the Memorial, I tried to hold myself to the speed runs and the hill work the plan adds in over the novice plans, because I knew I would need it for the hills througout the Tulsa course.
I managed to get through my training without missing a single run, and only one of my runs was relegated to the treadmill instead of running outdoors. I even did by two twenty-mile long runs and managed to run those non-stop. The longer distances are getting slightly easier to deal with. They can still be brutal, but I’m getting used to my stays in the pain cave.
The Ambassador Program and Realizations
The Route 66 Marathon is a race put on by runners and for runners. It is a celebration of the running lifestyle. As such, the program is run like a well-oiled machine. Their social media outreach and ambassador program is second-to-none. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an ambassador this year, and it was an amazing experience.
If you follow my social media you will have noticed an upswing in the number of posts talking about the marathon. I focused more on my Instagram account and posted pictures regularly showcasing my training progress. Yes, a lot of those posts were for the ambassador program to advertise the Route 66 Marathon, but I made a realization throughout the process that there was a lot more to it than that.
Firstly, it was forcing me to break out of my shell and really participate in the social side of running. I made real, honest-to-goodness friends throughout this program with like-minded people with similar stories and goals. For an introvert like me that’s a big deal. I usually run solo, but this program helped me run with a virtual group. It changed me as a person.
Secondly, I realized that in doing so I’m documenting my own changes. Before 2016 when I made my life-changing decision to lose weight, there were almost no pictures of me. I hated myself and how I looked on camera, so I refused most photo opportunities. But as I started losing weight and especially when I started running, I gained confidence and now I’m ok with pictures of me. In fact, I look forward to taking that next training run selfie.
Multiple people have told me that the changes I’ve made have helped them take steps to bettering themselves, so I almost feel like I owe it to people to keep taking pictures, posting updates, and letting the world know that if I can change my life, so can you.
Race Expo and 5k
We got to Tulsa on Friday afternoon and went straight to the race expo for packet pickup. I ended up with a ton of swag, including a generous amount of gear from Lululemon for race ambassadors. The gear they provided was top-notch, and will definitely be in my running rotation for a long while.
On Saturday, we got up early to participate in the 5k. I personally didn’t run the 5k as I was nervous about overdoing it before the marathon, but I cheered Lori and Mason on as they ran the race. The weather was cold, miserable, windy, and echoed the conditions of the marathon last year. I tried to keep warm as they ran by jumping around and cheering on other runners, but by the end of the race I was pretty numb and ready to go warm up at the hotel room.
After thawing out, we went back to the expo and I participated in a question and answer panel with some of the other ambassadors. It was a blast! When I get to talking about running, it’s hard to shut me up so I was very much in my element.
Running the Marathon
Sunday morning was cold, in the mid-thirties, but the wind was low and the sky was clear. In other words, the weather was perfect for running a full marathon. I was getting excited and ready to tackle the race!
I started in the C corral, with my goal time set around the 4:30-ish mark. My goal was to get somewhere in the 4:30’s for this race and based on my training, I was pretty sure I could make it there, provided I didn’t have any G.I. issues or injuries on the way.
The race started and it was crazy how memories of the course came flooding back from last year. It was part nostalgia and celebration of how far I’ve come that I was running the same hills with more confidence and strength.
At mile eight we came to Riverside Drive, which runs alongside Tulsa’s awesome park “The Gathering Place”. I distinctly remember flagging in energy last year when getting to this point as I had underestimated the hills. This year, I was clocking in well above expectations and I was feeling strong.
We got to the only portion of the course that actually runs on Route 66 and it started getting a little warm. I knew that I’d have to ditch my beanie and gloves soon or else I’d get too hot in the last half of the race, but otherwise I was feeling great.
Right after that there’s a big uphill climb that leads back into downtown to mark the halfway point. It’s where the half-marathon splits off from the full marathon. Last year, that hill kicked my butt and I had to walk part of it. This year, I powered through and actually sped up a bit, feeling confident.
At the halfway point, I saw Lori and Mason at the side of the road cheering me on, so I did a little dance as I ran, gave them some fist bumps, and asked them to take my sweaty beanie and gloves. I heard an “EWW!” from Mason as I ran off, and I laughed. It gave me a boost of energy to keep going.
The rest of the race went well. About mile fifteen a guy asked me about the ambassador program, seeing my Lululemon shirt, and I told him about it. I told him about the perks and the obligations, and encouraged him to sign up for it next year. He said, “Oh I’m from Houston, though.” I told him that didn’t matter because we have ambassadors from all over the country.
Talking to him a bit more, I asked him how long he’d been marathoning, and he said this was his marathon number 121. I was stunned! That’s a ton of running. He said he’d run the Route 66 four times now and done marathons all over. I want to be like this guy when I grow up. I wish I had got his name, but shortly after we talked he lagged behind and I lost track of him at a water stop. I hope he met his goals for the day!
Another guy pulled up next to me a little while later and laughed. I gave him a look and he said, “I haven’t had a normal water stop yet.”
“Oh yeah?” I replied with a bit of skepticism.
“Yeah, I’ve only had beer, fireball, and jello. I’m probably going to regret that later.” He laughed and took off and I couldn’t help but laugh too. We passed each other a few times through the remainder of the course so he did ok for himself in spite of all the alcohol. At least he was enjoying himself.
Those encounters made me realize another thing; this was the first marathon where I wasn’t feeling near death and actually held conversations with someone while I was running. That’s new territory for me and a sign of my own progress. Yay!
Things were chugging along nicely until about mile twenty. At that point I started feeling a bit tired, but I still had no desire to stop. My pace slowed a bit, but I was still on track. At mile twenty-four I was bargaining with myself, though. I wanted to stop and walk so bad but I told myself, “just make it to the next water stop. Then we’ll re-evaluate.” I was sure to get running right after getting my water. I knew I’d hate myself if I took a walking break, and that pain would last longer than the physical pain from continuing to run.
Before I knew it, I saw the signs for the Center of the Universe detour and I was re-energized. That, constant readers, is the definition of a party: There’s loud music, people crowded around and dancing, beer and other drinks, and a general positive atmosphere. I grabbed my second token for completing the detour, and grabbed a beer knowing there was only a mile or so left in the race. It was time to start celebrating.
I made it to the finish line with a huge smile on my face. I was able to high-five my friend and the race announcer Mark Bravo. That’s when the other race announcer, America’s voice of marathoning and long-time Disney race announcer Rudy Novotny stopped me and said, “Hey Tim, I know you just finished a marathon, but do you have it in you to do a dance?” Someone is familiar with my Instagram account, it seems. I obliged. I really hope I can find video of this.
All being said I met my goals for the race: I ran without taking a walking break, and met my goal time. With the detour, bringing the race total to 26.5 miles, I completed in 4:38:23. Strava invormed me my marathon distance time was 4:31. So either way I not only PR’ed the course and met my time goal, I PR’ed my previous marathon time, which was 4:43 set at the OKC Memorial Marathon this past spring.
I took a few days off running following the marathon. Thursday after the Marathon was Thanksgiving, and I ran a 5k, which helped my legs stretch out. That’s all the running I’ve done all week, but starting Monday morning, December 2nd, I’ll be back to my normal running routine.
Taking nearly a full week off running has been difficult for me, as I’m so used to running every day. It’s not just for physical health, but mental health as well, but I know it is imortant to have a bit of downtime to heal and recover so I can keep that up. It’d be worse for me if I end up injuring myself. What’s one week off running as opposed to several to recover from injury?
The only downside about this timeframe is that Thanksgiving has also thrown it’s monkey wrench into things with several family gatherings and plenty of food. But it’s important to celebrate and not see diet or exercise as punishment. That warrants a blog post of its own, though.
As it stands right now, I’m feeling great and ready to get back to the routine and start planning for the next race. The marathon distance isn’t as impossibly difficult for me as it used to be, and that’s awesome.
Without a doubt I’ll be doing the OKC Memorial Marathon again in April. I want to check out the new course as it goes through Scissortail Park. I also learned about the Hogeye Marathon which is cool because it is in Springdale, Arkansas, where we used to live! I’d love to run through some of my old stomping grounds. That should be another hilly marathon but after tackling the Route 66 I’m not scared.
I’m also looking for my next bigger race. I’d like to do a 50k or a 50 mile to dip my toes into real ultrarunning. The Badger 100 put on by the Ten Junk Miles podcast looks like a real fun one and not too difficult to accomplish. That takes plac in August, so the only real concern for me would be the heat.
Whatever choices I make, I’m looking forward to pushing myself more and more. I hope my journey helps inspire you to reach past your comfort zone and challenge yourself to something amazing.