Dr. J on Running
36 Route 66 Marathon, Tulsa, OK24 November 2013
The convenience of staying near the Finish Line negated the need for a rental car. After an uneventful flight to Tulsa, I rode the city bus from the airport to the Civic Center downtown. I went straight to the race expo, met the Boones at the 50 States booth and Ray at the Maniacs booth, and claimed my bracelet for the post-race party at the Maniacs Corner. I picked up my race packet and bib number 1327. The short-sleeve T-shirt rated among the worst in my collection. The expo was one of the largest I attended lately, and focused prominently on running.
I walked the mile from the Civic Center to the Fairfield Inn, but got caught in a downpour that soaked right through my backpack. Once in my room, I spread out my racing clothes, and turned up the heat to dry them out. I considered my room number 327 and bib number 1327 an omen. The Fairfield Inn sat atop two restaurants and a bar, and blended nicely into the character of the Brady Arts District.
The Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant below the hotel promised a unique culinary experience. I marveled at the extensive menu of childhood favorites, and looked forward to their specials. The menu claimed that “if you’re lucky, sheep’s eyes & testicles will be the special next week!” This proved to be the second disappointment of the day – after the short-sleeve T-shirt – as the waitress proclaimed gleefully that the owner had a sense of humor, and that everything on the menu was special.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs and fruits, I conducted a dry run to the Start Line. I walked the 0.4 mile in 6 minutes. I sipped a cup of cappuccino at Chimera as the 5K race got under way. After a mid-morning nap and a second breakfast, I returned to the expo where I met the Maniacs Prez. I stopped back at the 50 States booth and bought a new hat. Winter storm Boreas weighed heavily on everybody’s mind. I chatted with 4:45 pacer Katherine, a veteran of 146 marathons, and I promised to join her pace group in the morning.
Mike picked me up from the hotel and drove me to The Vault for a pre-race dinner with 14 maniacs. I met Allison, a California special ed teacher who felt at home around maniacs. Allison ran marathons in 30 states in one year to earn Titanium status and a tibia stress fracture. Mom-o-6 Michelle gave Cade a “50 < 4” shirt to celebrate his accomplishment.
On race morning, the thermometer read 23F with winds from the NNE, creating a wind chill in the teens. I made a tactical decision to forgo the Maniacs picture in favor of 40 extra minutes of shelter. I wore two long-sleeve technical shirts and a wind jacket, shorts and wind pants, hat and ski mittens. I left the hotel at 0750, and reached the Start Line in time for the National Anthem. I joined corral C, shuffled forward a city block every 5 minutes, and took off at 0810 in a hail of confetti. I stayed initially with pacer Katherine due to frost-induced illusions of a sub-5 marathon.
With 3,000 runners in the Marathon and 6,000 in the Half, the narrow city streets created mild congestion for several miles. The course left a lot to be desired with its 70 turns on city roads. Cones at Mile 3 marked the skating rink created overnight by water sprinklers. Volunteers holding signs cautioned of multiple speed bumps around mile 4. I kept my distance from runners ahead to watch for cracks in the pavement. Maniac Deb went down early in the race, but she motored on. I settled into my 4-and-4 rhythm, and laughed at the layer of ice that had formed on the water cups at the first water station.
I took off my hat around mile 5 and my wind jacket around mile 8. I put them both back on around mile 12. I went through the half in 2:27. I felt cold but strong. I moved steadily forward. It got colder and windier late morning. I experimented with the zipper of my jacket to achieve the desired ventilation. I noticed that I had not been sweating, and that resulted in frequent potty breaks. Several music bands dotted the course, and we cheered on the frozen musicians. Maniacs Dave and cousin Louie fooled around, running back and forth to take pictures of fellow Maniacs.
My body shut down around Mile 18. Attempts at alternating walking with running proved futile, so I focused on walking forward. I felt cold, so I ducked into a coffee shop for bathroom and warmth. Fingers thawed, I walked another half-an-hour and ducked into a gas station. I repeated gas-station hopping through mile 23, when I felt strong enough to resume running.
I crossed the Finish line in 5:27, and discovered later that I finished in 1,527th place. A symphony of 27s marked the race: born on 7/27, I stayed in hotel room 327, wore race bib number 1327, ran the first half in 2:27, and finished in 5:27 for 1527th place.
The 1951 Pontiac Chieftain hood ornament inspired the medal, a statement about the heritage of Oklahoma. I exchanged my generic medal for a 50 States medal at the Maniacs Corner, and I discovered later that it had the wrong date. I enjoyed a hot hearty bowl of Mongolian barbecue with chicken and vegetables, then walked briskly to the hotel for a very long, very hot shower. I lied still for one hour with the thermostat set at 80 degrees, then devoured a 16-oz rib eye steak at Caz’s Chowhouse that prided itself for serving all the right comfort foods.
Dr Kamal Jabbour survived Boreas on his 36th marathon and 36th state. Dr. J's RUNNING Column appears in Cyberspace whenever endorphins call.