Previewing Tulsa’s Route 66 Marathon

The big day is almost here! (Williams Route 66 Marathon photo)

The big day is almost here! (Williams Route 66 Marathon photo)

We’re a little more than a week away from one of the two biggest races in Oklahoma: the Route 66 Marathon.

Thousands of runners will be racing in the 5K, half marathon and marathon on the weekend of Nov. 23-24. The race is fairly new, but it has already grown as a lot of local runners – as well as many more from surrounding states – use this is their capstone event of the fall racing season.

What’s in store? A meandering course that tours the east bank of the Arkansas River, downtown Tulsa, some cool midtown neighborhoods and a quick turn through the University of Tulsa campus.

Here’s a few things to know before you crowd the starting line…

Expo and packet pickup

You can go to the Cox Business Center in downtown Tulsa (6th and Houston) from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday Nov. 22 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday Nov. 23. You can expect fast packet pickup (the Cox Center is pretty big and well suited for quick service) and plenty of time to browse the Health, Fitness and Sustainability Expo. A ton of vendors will be there with lots of running gear and other goodies.

There are some cool presentations planned for Nov. 23. The list:

– Noon: Injury prevention and how to access medical care if you need it.

– 12:45 p.m.: Using video for gait analysis/shoe selection.

– 1:30 p.m.: Primary care for endurance athletes.

– 2:15 p.m.: Breathing issues in runners, and how to improve lung function.

– 3 p.m.: Medical experts roundtable.

Other good programs will be offered throughout the weekend at the expo, so be sure to check it out after you pick up your packet.

Route 66 Marathon bling, which the race has become famous for. (Williams Route 66 Marathon photo)

Route 66 Marathon bling, for which the race has become famous. (Williams Route 66 Marathon photo)

Saturday races

The Route 66 Marathon is actually a full weekend event, with the shorter races planned for Saturday, Nov. 23. On tap are the 5K (8 a.m. start), one-mile fun run/walk (9 a.m. start) and the Mascot Dash (9:30 a.m. start). All Saturday races start at Archer and Elgin on the east side of the Brady Arts District north of downtown. The races will finish at Guthrie Green, a downtown park that will also be the scene of Sunday’s finish line.

What I like about this is that you’ll be able to enjoy the park at Guthrie Green, and be sure to check out Reconciliation Park just west of ONEOK Field. Two cool parks, and plenty of places to enjoy a good lunch when you’re done.

If you’re racing in the 5K, expect a fast start, then a quick uphill over the Boulder Avenue bridge. Once off the bridge, you’ll go up toward the crest of downtown, then a long, gradual downhill to the east side of downtown before heading south, then back west on 6th. There will be a slight climb, then downhill until you get to Denver Avenue. You’ll pick up speed as you go under a railroad underpass, then uphill again before turning back east toward the finish. This is a good, challenging 5K course with some interesting scenery; be sure to take advantage of those downhills if you’re looking for a PR.


Sunday races

The big daddies are on Sunday, Nov. 24: the half marathon and the marathon, both starting at 8 a.m. at 7th and Main Street downtown. The course is different this year, and is particularly noteworthy on the half marathon course. If you did the Route 66 half last year, you’ll notice that the course will be harder: No net elevation loss this time.

The race starts on Main Street downtown and heads south, a gradual downhill that will eventually take you to 15th Street (expect some hills here), and then southeast through some of Tulsa’s Midtown neighborhoods and scenic Woodward Park. This section of the course will undulate some before flattening out as it heads to the Brookside area, one of Midtown’s hip entertainment districts.

The course goes west toward Riverside Drive, then takes a long turn north back toward downtown. The Riverside stretch is flat, and stays that way until you get close to downtown. At Southwest Avenue, you’ll climb toward the crest of downtown (you’re near Mile 12 at this point), then hit Denver Avenue. You’ll dip down below the railroad tracks by the BOK Center, then uphill before hitting Archer Avenue.

For half marathoners, the final stretch is nice and flat, but only after those two hill climbs. So yeah, a little different from last year’s half, which mercifully ended on a flat stretch by Veterans Park. This time, you’ll finish at Guthrie Green in the Brady Arts District.

Marathoners will turn east at Second Street by the BOK Center, through downtown, then downhill southeast toward Peoria Avenue. The course from here is similar to what the first leg looks like, with runners turning east near 21st Street. A quick turn through the Utica Square area is next before going southeast through more of Midtown’s older neighborhoods, then north at mile 18 for the long march toward the University of Tulsa.

The TU campus, and the streets leading west out of campus are mercifully flat for a time, but then you’ll head back west on 15th Street – a notoriously hilly stretch which goes through another nightlife hotspot between Mile 22 and 23, the Cherry Street district.

The course then goes north on Peoria through a mostly level stretch to 6th Street, then through downtown on First Street. Near the end, you’re back at the BOK Center on the west side of downtown. You’ll go north on Denver Avenue from there, under the tracks, then gradually (and mercifully flat) through the Brady Arts District and the finish.

None of the hills on this course are overly huge, but there are plenty of them scattered throughout the course (aside from Riverside Drive). Don’t let that psyche you out; just trust your training.

If you’re not too tired and up for a distraction toward the end of the race, take the 0.3-mile Center of the Universe detour, which occurs within the last mile on 1st Street. It’s a mini party within the party at one of Tulsa’s quirky points of interest.

There is a lot to like about the course. It meanders through sort of a greatest hits tour of Tulsa’s most interesting places, and there are bound to be plenty of people along the way cheering you on. And remember, an interesting course will distract you from the punishment of 13.1/26.2. Lastly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to finish. The Brady Arts District is one of the coolest places in the city, and it’s home to some of the great Tulsa Tough cycling races. By finishing, you’ll only be adding to the district’s athletic heritage!

If you haven’t signed up, do it now. Registration closes this Sunday (Nov. 17), and the marathon and half marathon are near capacity. There is still some room for marathon relay and 5K as well.

Need to know more? Download the event guide here.

So, folks, enjoy your taper. Get ready. And be sure to revel in the race. If you’re like me, this event is the culmination of months of training and preparation. All that’s left is to get to the starting line healthy and ready. See you there!

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088


4 thoughts on “Previewing Tulsa’s Route 66 Marathon

  1. Fantastic. This is good intel for anyone who is running this race. I think it is better to know what to expect than it is to be suprised. For a 5K, no problem. For a marathon I want to be prepared for what ever is out there.

    • It’s going to be a really good race. It’s not like a hill-a-palooza, but my advice — or rather, hope — is that folks who are doing the half and the full DID THEIR HILL TRAINING. 15th Street and 21st Street can get a tad hilly.

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