On November 22nd/23rd, Peter and I joined over 11,000 runners from across the country (and world) in running the 2014 Route 66 Marathon. This race was the culmination of three months of solid training, carb counting, anticipation, and elation, all of which made the event one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had since moving to Tulsa.
Peter ran the 5K on Saturday, which was the day the weather was supposed to have the greatest impact on race conditions. We had been carefully scrutinizing the weather forecast in the days leading up to the race, but if we’ve learned anything about Oklahoma it’s that there is really no predicting exactly what the weather is going to do from minute to minute. While the temperatures were looking glorious (58 degrees for our start times!), it was really up in the air as to whether or not it was going to rain during the races on both days. Luckily, Peter’s 8:00 start time coincided with a brief break in the storm system that had been moving across the state and he was able to avoid getting rained on until JUST AFTER he crossed the finish line, which was when the rain started to come down again. Lucky break! I faced the same weather concerns for my race the following morning, but once again we were lucky and the rain cleared out a few hours before my 8:00 start time, leaving conditions cool, cloudy, and just the right amount of (and direction of) windy.
With ideal weather conditions, Peter wound up running yet another excellent 5K race. His final time was 21:46, which beat last month’s Tulsa Run time by nine seconds—another PR! Peter mentioned that it was a great race, with a couple of exceptions. First, the start of the race was a bit of a cluster f#@k in the few minutes leading up to the gun. The way they set up the start/finish line and medal/concession areas meant that all the participants had to file through a small gate right next to the starting line and maneuver back through the amassing crowd of runners to their approximate starting positions. Since Peter was lined up just behind the starting line (to get a good gun time), this meant all the last-minute, slower stragglers were still pushing past him to get at the back of the start area in the minutes prior to the race. While the majority of runners made it to where they needed to be, there was still a group of little kids who took off with the 5-minute-milers and got in Peter’s way when the gun went off (you can see this in one of the pictures below). He mentioned afterward that he was pretty perturbed by this and with good reason. It was a really awkward way to set up the starting area. Second, just like with the Tulsa Run and any other road race in Oklahoma, there were some good-sized hills to contend with throughout the race, which definitely had an impact on finishing times and fatigue. Peter’s plan is to incorporate more hill training for his next 5K for this reason. Finally, Peter’s biggest challenge during his race turned out to be his shins. He had been experiencing some pain in his shins for two to three weeks prior and the race caused the injury to flare up while he was running, which he said had a big impact on his time. He’s hoping to figure out what the cause is so that he doesn’t have to experience that type of pain for future races. With these few exceptions aside, the race was a positive experience with a great outcome—it’s hard not to be happy when you finish 24th overall and 4th in your age group!
As for me, this was my first half marathon and it was a 100 percent positive experience on so many different levels. I came into this race knowing that this would be the only FIRST TIME I would ever run a half marathon so I wanted to make it an experience I would remember forever. With that in mind, I did just one thing: I enjoyed myself. All my pre-race nerves disappeared when I entered the start corral and I savored the moments when I was able to look up at the clouds, listen to the music, and feel the energy around me. I was so caught up in the moment that I completely forgot to turn on my stopwatch when I crossed the starting line, which I would normally be put-off by, but I couldn’t have cared less on this occasion since my finishing time was an afterthought for my first half marathon. As for the race itself, it was absolutely amazing. The weather was perfect and the course wound through some of the most scenic, beautiful neighborhoods in Tulsa. Although there were definitely some big sections of hills, I found myself relishing the challenge and reveling in the rewards when each hill came back down. I’m pretty sure I was grinning like an idiot throughout the run. The support from all the community members and business owners who came out to cheer everyone on also kept me going and grinning. I was a total ham and threw out more high-fives and thumbs-up than I could count. By far the most amazing sign of support came from Peter, who rushed from the start to the 7-mile mark to cheer me on and trade me a new handheld water bottle. I’m pretty sure I said “thank you” and “I love you” a half-dozen times in the 30 seconds he ran next to me. Seeing him at the halfway mark was the most amazing boost I could have ever asked for. The best part of the entire race though was, of course, the finish. From studying the course a million times, I knew exactly where the last tough hill was (right around the 12.5 mile mark), and as soon as I reached the top, that smile hit my face and didn’t stand a chance of coming off I had envisioned this moment for months and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I threw my arms up at the final straightaway and fist-pumped all the way to the finish line. Even in the midst of the crowd at the finish, I was able to pick out Peter and see him cheering me on, which made the whole experience even better. My final time was 2:13:08, which landed me in the top 35 percent overall, top 25 percent of female runners, and top 27 percent of my age group. Plus, since this was my first half marathon, I was always guaranteed to set a PR!
The Route 66 Marathon was an amazing experience—one that we plan to repeat for years to come. Right now, we’re enjoying a couple of weeks of rest and yoga to recover, but we’ve already got our eyes on the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in April. We’re both looking forward to jumping back into training and immersing ourselves in running all over again! We’re hooked!