Marathon man

Williams Route 66 Marathon founder Chris Lieberman defies the odds.



Kim Hann and Chris Lieberman lead the Williams Route 66 Marathon, which Lieberman founded in 2005. The couple fell in love through their passion for running and started dating after working on the marathon together. In March 2016, an accident left Lieberman with severe brain trauma, causing Hann to step up her responsibilities with the event.

On Nov. 19, Chris Lieberman hopes to cheer on Corral D — the final group of runners to start the Williams Route 66 Marathon — as he has every year since he began the race in 2005.

“They’re my people,” he says, smiling, of the “slowest runners.”

Last year was the first time Lieberman missed seeing the marathon in person. Instead, he watched and listened to it on TV from a hospital room. He was still recovering, as he is today, from a traumatic brain injury he suffered in March 2016.

“That day he stood up for the first time in I don’t know how long,” says Kim Hann, Lieberman’s girlfriend and the marathon’s co-executive director. “He waited for everyone to start — from Corral A to D — and then finally sat back down.”

The past 20 months have been a rollercoaster for the couple. In March 2016, Lieberman was working in the marathon warehouse when he fell about 10 feet from a ladder, hitting his head and causing serious brain trauma. Extensive surgeries and care proceeded, all with Hann by his side. Lieberman has spent time in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas for intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy.

“Chris told me one day, ‘I’m not training for the Olympics,’” Hann says. “I said, ‘No, but you’re training for life.”

As he recovered, Hann stepped up to not only take care of Lieberman, but also fulfill marathon responsibilities.

When Lieberman became injured, it was a pretty significant blow to the organization, says Tim Dreiling, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports and longtime Route 66 Marathon race director. Questions arose about who would step into Lieberman’s role because of his countless responsibilities.

“Kim was really there for Chris, and Chris was always there for the marathon, so Kim plugged herself into that role,” Dreiling says. “Kim is amazing in the strength she has exhibited.”

While Hann’s priority remained her boyfriend, the marathon provided a needed outlet. “Living in a hospital isn’t easy,” she says. “Luckily I had the marathon and the board to support me … I love running, and I love the event. It really was, I hate to say it, a distraction. It kept me motivated and kept me going, having that to focus on every day.”

 

Quite the undertaking

Dreiling is one of 30 volunteer directors who work year-round with Lieberman and Hann to make the Route 66 Marathon happen. The event includes a health and fitness exhibition and five races: a 1-mile fun run, a 5K, a marathon relay, a half-marathon and the marathon. The event is now in its 12th year, and organizers expect 12,000-15,000 runners from every state and nine countries to participate Nov. 18-19.

Community support is key to an event like this, Hann says, and Tulsa turns out every year. Race weekend calls for nearly 2,000 volunteers. More than 30 bands dot the course, which winds through iconic Tulsa neighborhoods and districts and brings out spectators who cheer on the runners.

“That’s exactly what we want it to be: a big party for everyone who comes to town,” Hann says. “(The participants) have already done all the hard work. They’ve done the training. The training is what takes so much time. Race day is just a celebration of the training.”

But it’s not just the Tulsa community that steps up. Race directors from across the country have come to Tulsa — and will again this year — to work the weekend and help out with operations and logistics.

“They know how hard it is to put on a race, especially of this caliber,” Hann says. “They understand what it takes. They want to see the Route 66 Marathon succeed and carry out Chris’ vision. (Their support) has been overwhelming.”

For 12 years, Lieberman and the Route 66 Marathon have put Tulsa on the map when it comes to running. He was first inspired to create the marathon as he was running his first — the Dallas Marathon — in 2004. “As I ran I thought, you know, we could do this in Tulsa,” he says.

Over the years, the Route 66 Marathon has garnered several local and national awards, including Best Overall Marathon in the U.S. by the 100 Half Marathon Club.

 

Defying the odds

First-time marathoners hold a special place in Lieberman’s heart. “For them, they’ve made so many changes,” he says. “And, they are so excited when they finish.”

The finish line is an emotional place for Hann, who can’t be at the finish line without getting teary. “To see someone set goals and achieve them, and that one moment has changed their life,” she says. “It’s pretty amazing.”

As Lieberman has traversed recovery, he has had setbacks. Fittingly, doctors told him and Hann that brain injury recoveries are more of a marathon than a sprint. His inpatient benefits maxed out in Dallas, so four months ago he returned home to Tulsa where he goes to post-acute rehabilitation once a week. He continues to make significant strides.

“It’s great to see him recovering, have him back around,” Dreiling says. “He comes to board meetings; chimes in; tries to tell Kim what to do, which is humorous.”

Just like any competitive runner, Lieberman has set goals for himself. First up, walking his daughters Ashton and Aldyn down the aisle at their 2018 weddings.

He currently walks at therapy with assistance, and running isn’t out of the question either. “I had to open my big mouth and tell Kim I would do a half marathon for her,” Lieberman says.

But no one questions the possibilities after how far Lieberman has come in less than two years. “At one point, they told us Chris would never speak, never laugh, all these nevers,” Hann says.

“Of course, they were full of it,” Lieberman chimes in, exuding confidence and the charm
Tulsans have come to know.

“They didn’t know Chris would prove everybody wrong,” Hann adds. “That’s what it’s all about: proving everybody wrong. It’s the same thing with endurance running. You’re setting a goal, you’re achieving a goal, and you put that time and effort in, and then it happens. You defy the odds, and you realize you can do things you didn’t think you could do.”

Williams Route 66 Marathon

Presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma

Nov. 17

11 a.m.-8 p.m., Health and Fitness Expo at the Cox Business Center

Nov. 18

8 a.m., 5K Run and Walk at Guthrie Green
9 a.m., 1-mile Fun Run at Guthrie Green
9:30 a.m., Mascot Dash at Guthrie Green
10 a.m.-6 p.m., Health and Fitness Expo at the Cox Business Center

Nov. 19

8 a.m., Marathon, Half-Marathon and Marathon Relay start at East Seventh and South Main streets and finish at Guthrie Green

route66marathon.com

 

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Sexy guitar. Infectiosu rhythms. Smoky vocals. KALO is groovesome rhythm and blues meets fiery rock 'n' roll. Don't miss the band everyone is talking about. www.kaloband.com

Cost: $10

Where:
Soul City of Tulsa
1621 E 11th St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
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Cost: $8

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Over the past twelve years, the Williams Route 66 Marathon has become a 26.2-mile party! You might find yourself asking "Is this a race or really just a huge...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Cox Business
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 918-408-1208
Contact Name: Ally Lightle
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Come give those calories one last dance!  We dance in the park behind Jenks Nutrition.  But don't worry, we'll move inside if the weather gets bad.  For $5, you get a fun...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Jenks Nutrition
124 N 3rd St
Jenks, OK  74037
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This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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This marks the first time this remarkable collection has been exhibited internationally. OKCMOA will present some of the most important works from the Victoria and Albert’s outstanding...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day was created by an act of Congress in 1999 and since then has been sponsored and supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; it takes...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Tristesse Grief Center
2502 E 71st St
Tulsa, OK  74135
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  The Harry Potter™ film series is one of those once-in-a-lifetime cultural phenomena that continues to delight millions of fans around the world. The concert will feature the Tulsa...

Cost: $45-$90

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Tulsa Symphony
Telephone: 918-584-3645
Contact Name: Amy Roark
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Enjoy making and taking home a beautiful authentic stained glass ring project in this 2 hour class. Crafting lessons, materials for one ring (4" ring and 9 glass nuggets), and use of tools are all...

Cost: $39.00

Where:
Tulsa Stained Glass
4131 S. Sheridan Rd.
Tulsa, OK  74145
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Sponsor: Tulsa Stained Glass
Telephone: 918-664-8604
Contact Name: Richard Bohm
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join us friday november 3rd for our newest exhibit.   Norman artist JASON CYTACKI and his exquisite exhibit, 'Living is Easy with Eyes Closed'   we'll have live music with...

Cost: free

Where:
mainline art bar
111 n main street
tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: mainline art bar
Telephone: 918-704-3330
Contact Name: katy eagleston

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Working in large-scale paper and graphite collages, Mark Lewis, Applied Associate Professor at the University of Tulsa, builds up layers of paper to create highly dimensional urban landscapes,...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: 108 Contemporary
Telephone: 918-895-6302
Contact Name: 108 Contemporary Intern
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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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This wine, canvas and painting class in Tulsa, OK features step-by-step instruction to help you create a fun acrylic painting on a 16x20 stretched canvas. Purchase wine, beer, and mixed...

Cost: $30 per person (normally $40)

Where:
Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
3807 S Peoria Ave Suite-C
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Time Paint & Sip Studio
Telephone: 918-927-0729
Contact Name: Martin Pecina
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  The Harry Potter™ film series is one of those once-in-a-lifetime cultural phenomena that continues to delight millions of fans around the world. The concert will feature the Tulsa...

Cost: $45-$90

Where:
Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E 2nd St
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Sponsor: Tulsa Symphony
Telephone: 918-584-3645
Contact Name: Amy Roark
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You can't get more classical than celebrating Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms with internationally acclaimed pianist Sara Davis Buechner and the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra! Come join us as we...

Cost: $40

Where:
Bartlesville Community Center
300 S.E. Adams Blvd.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra
Telephone: 918-366-7717
Contact Name: Molly Collins
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Autumn is here, and summer has fallen Just a few more weeks, and no more pollen! Thanksgiving's coming and football huddles, So grab some blankets for cold-weather cuddles! Laughing Matter is a...

Cost: 8.00

Where:
PH Community House
306 South Phoenix
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Laughing Matter Improv
Contact Name: Jerry Henderson
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Big Fish is a story that shifts between two timelines.  In the present-day real world, sixty-year-old Edward Bloom faces his mortality while his son Will prepares to become a father himself....

Cost: $10

Where:
VanTrease PACE
10300 E. 81st Street
Tulsa, OK  74133
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Cost: $5

Where:
Reynolds Center
3208 E 8th St
Tulsa, OK
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Making plans for this weekend? You can't do better than The Drunkard & The Olio at the historic Spotlight Theater. You know you've always wanted to go, and now's your chance. And if...

Cost: Adults $20, kids $12, seniors & military $17

Where:
Spotlight Theater
1381 Riverside Dr.
Tulsa, OK  74127
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TULtalk


QUIZ: What kind of wedding cake are you?

Which of these locally made wedding cakes speaks to your soul?

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Cyntergy Hurtland brings tailgating fun to town

November 12, compete in fun Parkathlon activities while cheering on Cyntergy Hurtland cyclists.

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6 reasons to live downtown

In preparation for Dwell in the IDL, I chatted with a few downtown residents to see what makes the burgeoning area so livable.

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Money mind

Financial considerations to help reduce stress, anxiety

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Charitable Events: November 2017

This month's fundraisers and fun happenings

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