Where does one begin the pursuit to run 66 miles on Route 66 at age 66? Somewhere in the middle of course, at the Mother Road Marathon. I opted to save Oklahoma for another day and began the Half in Baxter, Kansas.
The Mother Road is a small marathon, 139 marathon finishers and 250 finishers of the half this year. Yet, it operates as smoothly as large marathons I have run and offers all the percs without the elbow-to-elbow start.
My Mother Road experience began at the Springfield/Branson airport where my sister greeted me and drove us to our first stop at Joplin City Hall for packet pickup. There was a small expo with sponsor and organization information and product tables.
Next stop to the LaQuinta, the marathon hotel. Race morning, a light continental breakfast was available to runners beginning at 4 a.m. Volunteers were on hand to welcome runners on the shuttles to the Joplin Athletic Center. Shuttle service began at 5 a.m. From the Athletic Center, we transferred to buses for either Baxter KS for the 1/2 start, or to Commerce, OK for the full. From a runner perspective, the shuttles ran smoothly, always departing and arriving as scheduled.
A light rain stopped as our shuttle arrived in Baxter. The morning was cool so I pulled a stowed trash bag over my head and placed my jacket in a carryall provided by the race. I handed it off to at bag check and made my way to the start. The rain stopped and I passed the trash bag on to a shivering rain-drenched runner caught in an earlier downpour. A few words from the mayor, a prayer, the anthem, and we’re off for our 13.1 miles.
The first few miles were flat roadway, with a short distance on a water-logged trail where we merged with full marathon runners. Back to the road, the wind was at 10 mph, in our faces and cool. In shorts sleeves and short tights, I was comfortable but could have used a pair of light cotton gloves.
The road ahead was going up, up, up. The first half of this marathon is relatively flat, changing to a slight uphill for the second half.
I can handle hills, but although shallow, these didn’t seem to end. The expected downhill when we peaked was nonexistent, only a plateau before the next hill. Around miles 7/8, a snake-like bend through the town of Galenawas a colorful reprieve from that straight ribbon of highway. Cheering folks in lawn chairs lined the main street. Runners meandered through a section where paving was worn and cracked.
A sign cautioned to watch our footing – we were running on the original roadbed of Route 66.
Soon enough we were back out to the smoother but less scenic main highway. Plentiful porta-potties and water stations were staggered along the hilly route.
Approaching the finish, there was a sizable crowd and an announcer calling the names of first-time 1/2 and full marathoners. My finish was a 2:06, eight minutes shy of my 1/2’s in 2012. This was my first race to rebuild distance, next working on my time to sneak back under that 2-hour mark.
It’s a short walk to the food tent where a variety of fresh fruit and energy bars were available. The only thing missing was the hot cup of coffee that I crave post-run.
The atmosphere was festive with 5K participants mixing in. Beer and pizza were available for runners and a live band played some classic rock numbers.
From the runner perspective, this event looked flawless. The details required for planning a course through three states and multiple municipalities, synchronizing a marathon and half marathon with a 5K going off in Joplin takes a skilled and dedicated race committee. Congratulations to the Mother Road Marathon and all of the sponsors and volunteers that helped to achieve a seamless and historic race experience.