Me, Dan, LaDonna and Brian
I headed down to Tulsa this past weekend to run the Route 66 Marathon with my second cousins, Dan and Brian. It was to be the first marathon for both of them and we thought it would be a great experience to run it together. My Dad and I left around 5:00 am Sunday morning from my Grandparent's lake house near Grove to drive to the Southern Hills Marriot where we were meeting up with Dan, Brian and their families. We arrived at about 6:45 am and I headed into the lobby to find all of them waiting. I quickly ran to the restroom and then we jumped into our cars to make our way to the start line downtown.
I expected a lot more traffic considering it was a marathon morning but we had no problems finding a parking space and getting to the start area. The weather was ideal with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees and an overcast sky; there was a slight mist in the air and a cool breeze from the south. For a marathon it doesn't get any better! As we stood around waiting we caught up a bit on life, since I haven't seen either of them in about 12 years, and chatted about the race. They were both very excited and well prepared for the 26.2 mile distance. I saw my good friend, Matt Bickhard, along with TATUR founder, Brian Hoover, who were also running the marathon; it seems that no matter where I race I always see familiar faces. Around 7:50 am we were directed into the starting corral and promptly at 8:00 am we were off.
Brian and Dan's goal was to maintain a 10:00 min/mile pace throughout the race and finish somewhere near 4 hours and 30 minutes. We began the race a bit fast (go figure) and were consistently running a 9:00 minute mile pace through the first 10 miles. They both were feeling good but I could tell Dan was a bit concerned about going out too fast and I should have listened better; instead of backing off we just continued cruising along. I kept reminding them to relax their shoulders, take electrolyte capsules and listen to their bodies; if they felt lactic acid building up or that we were pushing it too much just speak up and we would slow down. Around mile 10 I saw fellow SLUG Tom Whalen running back towards downtown in 4th place and shouted over words of encouragement; man that guy can fly! He ended up placing 4th overall and taking 1st place Master's Male; congrats Tom! We hit the halfway mark at 10:00 am and were pacing ahead of our 4:30 goal but a lot can happen during those last 13 miles.
As we left Jenks on our way back towards downtown, Dan said his hamstrings were beginning to cramp and I reminded him to take some more electrolyte caps and down some GU. We also stopped so he could stretch his legs out a bit and decided to let Brian go on without us. Around the 15 mile point I saw my Dad and asked him to bring my bag out to me at the next stop as I had forgotten S-Caps and Hammer Gels. Up until this point I had been borrowing electrolyte caps from Dan but they weren't S-Caps and had less sodium; I suspected that may be why he was having some issues as he wasn't replacing the salt he was losing through his sweat. About a mile later my trusty "Crew Chief" came to the rescue delivering the much needed S-Caps which I shared with Dan as he was complaining of severe cramping in his hamstrings and calves.
Around mile 17 we began taking walk breaks as we waited for the cramps to subside but they never quite did and by mile 22 Dan was hurting pretty badly as the cramps had now moved into his quads. It was also at this point that he hit the "Wall" and as he weaved back and forth he told me that he was so tired he could fall asleep right there in the road. Fortunately an aid station was near, he downed some Accelerade and GU and within minutes he was back and alert; close call! He pushed on despite the fatigue and pain reminding himself that the more he ran the quicker he'd reach the finish line. Around the 25.5 mile mark we saw Matt Bickhard who was walking back up (he had already finished) looking for his friend. Matt told us that it was all downhill from here which put the spring back in Dan's step as we coasted and rounded the last turn towards the finish line. We crossed the tape in 4:36:37 and Dan now officially has the first of what will be many marathon finishes under his belt. Brian finished about 15 minutes ahead of us in 4:22:34 and Brian's wife, LaDonna, ran the Half Marathon in 2:25:18. They dug deep and finished strong; congrats to all three of you!
As we stood around munching food and talking with our families I was reminded of how I felt after I finished my first marathon back in December, 2005. I was physically exhausted, emotionally drained but very proud; I could see that same look in their eyes and it made me smile. I think most of us ultra-runners tend to just shrug off the marathon distance as no big deal but watching Dan and Brian push on as they battled cramps and fatigue made me respect the distance again. Both Dan and Brian started out running back in January of this year not with the intention of completing a marathon but simply to lose weight and live a healthier life. After many months of training and hard work they accomplished something that most people never will; everyone CAN finish a marathon but few have the discipline and dedication to actually do it. Way to go Dan, Brian and all of the other First Time Finishers at the Route 66 Marathon!
To view the full results of the Route 66 Marathon click HERE and to view all of the pictures from the race click HERE.
I leave for LA Wednesday morning to visit my good friend and former colleague, Erik, for the Thanksgiving holiday. He actually lives in Venice so we plan to get in some beach running, yoga and hiking over the long weekend as we catch up on old times and discuss what lies ahead in the future.
Wishing all of you a great holiday and Happy Running!