13.2 miles

My friend Dan ran the Mother Road 100 on Saturday and Sunday. The 100-mile ultramarathon started in Elk City and ended in El Reno; runners had 30 hours to complete the course, which followed Route 66 through that area.

On a race that long, you need pacers — friendly faces with fresh legs to jog alongside you for a few miles and keep your spirits up through a long, exhausting night. I don’t need much encouragement to go for a jog on Route 66, so I cruised out to Weatherford on Saturday evening, checked in at the Holiday Inn Express, and found myself in a room that overlooked the Weatherford aid station for the race.

My timing was good: Once I’d checked in and dumped my bag in my room, I called Dan’s wife, Jo Ann, who reported that Dan was about half a mile from the aid station. I threw on a jacket and met them down there. Since last year’s Route 66 Half-Marathon, I’d gone on exactly two runs — each three miles or less in length, and each involving at least as much walking as running — but I figured I could handle at least a few miles at an ultramarathon pace. Ultras are about distance, not speed, and a smart ultramarathoner will walk at least as much as he runs to conserve energy over the long haul.

I promised Dan five miles and wound up giving him 13.2. Our path took us past Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford, its inspiration near Hydro, into Hydro proper to an aid station at the edge of town, and out through a quiet, rural stretch of 66 between Hydro and Bridgeport. The inky sky was filled with glittering stars, and as we jogged through the darkness, a pack of coyotes began singing in a field next to the road. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear them — adults and pups, yipping and howling and yodeling their eerie song just a few yards away. There had to be at least a dozen of them, each voice distinct and wild and beautiful, cutting like machetes through the chilly night air. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced on 66 — or anywhere else, for that matter.

Dan thanked me profusely as we ran, and he thanked me again Sunday afternoon as I watched him cross the finish line.

I don’t think he’s quite wrapped his head around the fact that it is I who owe him a debt of gratitude. Any decent distance runner can knock off the equivalent of a half-marathon on a cool evening. But how many roadies can say they’ve been serenaded by coyotes at midnight while jogging down Route 66?

Hope your weekend was as incredible as mine.

Emily