The Route 66 Marathon’s Biggest Fans

The Route 66 Marathon’s Biggest Fans

The Williams Route 66 Marathon is fortunate to have many participants who are coming back for their second, third, fourth, and more events to run with us, but our biggest fans have done something truly incredible. If you’re gearing up to run your first marathon, you’re probably thinking that finishing one sounds like enough of a challenge. How about finishing fourteen? Since the inaugural Route 66 Marathon in 2006, eleven participants have completed the marathon every single year, come rain, shine, injury, and life events. These participants have been with us since the very beginning, watching as the race has grown from a small local event of just 3,000 participants to an award-winning, world-renowned event that draws 12,000 participants from all 50 states and 10 countries today. 


Our eleven legacy runners all hail from Oklahoma and have been running for decades; some are also streakers at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. You know how much dedication it takes to complete your training cycle; now imagine trying to do it year after year, no matter what happens. Through injuries, job changes, marriage, divorce, and more, the legacy runners keep chugging along, always determined to make it to the start (and finish) line, no matter what.


Stephen Abernathy, age 48, comes to Tulsa each year from Midwest City, Oklahoma, and has completed 42 marathons, including 3 Ironman-distance triathlons. His favorite thing about the Route 66 Marathon is the Center of the Universe Detour and the food and beer at the finish line. David Darcey, age 58, travels a bit farther to get to the race each year. A previous Tulsa resident, he now lives in Kamas, Utah and will be running his 50th marathon this year at Route 66. “My favorite thing about this race is the friends that I see on the course either running with me or spectating. Another favorite part of this run is that Williams is still the title sponsor. As someone who used to work at Williams and championed sponsorship of this run over the years, it makes me extremely happy to run this race. I have committed that I will continue to run this race as long as Williams is the title sponsor.” 


For local run leader Patty Powell, age 57, the Williams Route 66 Marathon is what fall is all about. She has lead a training group here in Tulsa for nearly a decade and helps prepares runners from Tulsa for the course she knows so well. Patty raced her 50th marathon at Route 66 in 2013 and plans to run her 100th marathon here in the coming years – this year’s Route 66 will be her 88th marathon. “I can’t really pick a favorite thing about the Route 66 Marathon!” Patty says. “I love the medal, the course (even though it’s tough), the swag, the expo, and the party atmosphere that starts with the confetti and continues all 26.2 miles!”


Ralph Cunningham, age 57 from Owasso, Oklahoma, has run 75 marathons and loves the Route 66 Marathon because he “enjoys running with friends through some of the best parts of Tulsa.” Keith Landers, age 58 from nearby Jenks, Oklahoma, has run 28 marathons, and it all starts with Route 66! “The Route 66 Marathon was my first and has created a drive that will push me and the participants that I have coached for the past 14 years well into the future,” he says.  “I love the Route 66 Marathon for many reasons. It is well supported, challenging, hilly, tough, and makes me feel alive!” Keith’s first marathon experience was so powerful that it ended up changing his life. “This event has transformed my life and improved my health, happiness, and well-being,” he continued. “Since I started coaching, many of my participants have gone on to continue training and have coached other walking and running groups. I couldn’t be prouder!” We couldn’t either, Keith!


Another familiar face on the course is Williams Route 66 Marathon pace group leader Kathryn White, who has helped lead Fleet Feet Tulsa’s marathon training programs every year and paces participants to their goals on race day. Kathryn, age 52, hails from Tulsa and has run an incredible  197 marathons and ultramarathons! “Since the Route 66 Marathon is run in my hometown, I have the rare opportunity to share the experience with my family, as well as so many running friends and volunteers that make this event truly memorable and wonderful,” she says.  If you have any questions about the course, she’s bound to be able to answer them at the Expo and look for her on the course!


Brian Gebhart, 53, from near Owasso, OK, has run 28 marathons and 26 ultramarathons. He says that the crowd support in Tulsa is the best of any marathon. “I like the challenge of the hills and the beautiful residential streets this time of year,” Brian explains. “No other marathon has something unique as the Center of the Universe Detour!” An interesting fact about Brian? He ran his first race in August of 2004 and to this day does almost zero training miles. “The only running I do is races,” he says. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working – the farthest he has run is 131 miles in a 72-hour race! Mark Wood, 58, from Edmond, OK, has run 34 marathons. Mark runs for a cause close to his heart – Hearts for Hearing, which helps individuals suffering from hearing loss. “I run each race with a shirt or tag mentioning Hearts for Hearing, and I usually donate to them after each run and try to raise awareness for the needs of people who have hearing loss,” Mark explains. How’s that for adding some meaning to your marathon?


So when the going gets tough on race day, just remember that the legacy runners are running right beside you and cheering you on! They’ll be registering early for next year, too (and so should you!).


The Williams Route 66 Marathon runners are:

Stephen Abernathy

Ralph Cunningham

Dave Darcey

Brian Gebhart

Keith Landers

Frank Muller III

Marlon Onco

Patty Powell

Marv Reith

Kathryn White

Mark Wood

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