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The Race Before Us | Oklahoma Sports & Fitness, November / December 2013 Issue

When the original Route 66 was paved, it was life changing. Route 66 symbolized the renewed spirit of optimism that spread through our country after economic catastrophe and global war. Often called, "The Main Street of America," it linked a remote and under-populated region with two vital cities - Chicago and Los Angeles.

During the Depression, hundreds of thousands of farm families, displaced by the Dust Bowl, made their way west across Route 66 to California. They followed what John Steinbeck called "The Mother Road" in his vivid portrait The Grapes of Wrath. After World War II, thousands more aspired for social and economic mobility by leaving the industrial East bound for good jobs in the ideal landscape of Southern California. Again, they followed Route 66, which came to be the agent of the demographic shift from the Rust Belt to our beloved Sun Belt.

Route 66 was a highway generated by the demands of a rapidly changing America. Contrasted with the Lincoln, the Dixie, and other highways of its day, Route 66 did not follow a traditionally linear course. Its diagonal course linked hundreds of predominantly rural communities in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas to Chicago. It enabled farmers to transport grain and produce for redistribution. The abbreviated route between Chicago and the Pacific coast traversed essentially flat prairie lands and enjoyed a more temperate climate than northern highways, which made it especially appealing to truckers.

By 1970, nearly all segments of the original Route 66 were bypassed by a modern four-lane highway. Today, Oklahoma has more miles of the original Route 66 than any other state.

The experience of Route 66 is formed by the people - and the sights, sounds, and tastes those people encounter. The old highway provides an alluring charge to “just keep going,” and discover the mysteries of what lies around the bend.

The spirit of Route 66 continues to live today for those who take the time to discover the mysteries of America's most famous adventurous highway. Each fall, The Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa is another strong reminder of this history and spirit. Participants of the marathon engage themselves in a journey unlike any other – 26.2 miles. And while old Route 66 is for people willing to sample chili from a stranger's pot, or for people that like to slurp root beer floats from a frosty mug – the marathon is for those willing to encounter an elusive wall at mile 20, or the prospect of going farther than they ever thought possible. As runners near the finish line, they are greeted by hundreds of friendly spectators, and the post-race party of the Williams Route 66 Marathon.

From the Spirit of the Kjell Tovander award, the powerful victory of stroller-pushing Freudenburg, the legendary echoes of the memorable Jack Wing, the sea of confetti at the starting line, the award-winning medals, the lure of the Detour to the Center of the Universe, and the electric atmosphere now welcoming runners and spectators at Guthrie Green – the Williams Route 66 Marathon has quickly established its own rich history.

When the original Route 66 was established in 1926, Americans enjoyed the long, interesting journey it provided. They took the time to take in the unique sights, sounds, and smells. Together, they logged the previously unseen miles. They took a slow, appreciative look at America’s countryside.

For many, running the Williams Route 66 Marathon is a slow, but steady accomplishment. It is a time to enjoy every breath and take in their personal milestone. For many, the marathon, like the historic route itself, is life changing.

This fall, the spirit of old Route 66 can without a doubt be found at the Williams Route 66 Marathon - that undeniable spirit to "just keep going."

Sean M. Call, Publisher/Editor
Oklahoma Sports & Fitness

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