Exec Still Going the Distance for Marathon in Tulsa

Article excerpt

Chris Lieberman is a businessman first, and that's one reason he enjoys being the Williams Route 66 Marathon's executive director.

"I love a challenge, and the business of the marathon is what attracts me to it," he said.

For the first time in its history, the Williams Route 66 Marathon, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, is sold out. The Boston Marathon-qualifying race, run on a 26.2-mile course through Tulsa, is set for Nov. 18.

The nonprofit organization operates on a $550,000 budget annually and attracts more than 10,000 runners. Expenses run from $50,000 for T-shirts, to nearly as much for medals, Lieberman said.

"We will budget $400,000 from entry fees and another $150,000 from sponsorships," he said. "We aim to clear $40,000."

The organization also receives commissions from area hotels.

The business of running a marathon is big, Lieberman said. The Tulsa event competes against a series of marathons throughout the fall. Races in St. Louis, San Antonio and Philadelphia are around the same time and compete for runners.

Promoting the Route 66 Marathon is almost a full-time job for Lieberman, the event's founder. He first had the idea to put on a race about eight years ago while running a marathon in Dallas.

"I recall thinking why Tulsa did not have a marathon," Lieberman said. "As I asked around lots of people told me reasons why it could not happen."

Telling Lieberman what he cannot do is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, he said.

"Reverse psychology works real well with me," Lieberman said, with a chuckle.

The early marathons had a few hundred runners.

Lieberman tries to make the marathon an experience.

Medals are important to runners, Lieberman said. Race organizers have made an art of providing participants award-winning medals. In the last three years, the marathon's medals have been named first, second and third among U.S. marathon medals, according to Marathon & Beyond magazine, Lieberman said.

This year's Route 66 Marathon finisher medals pay homage to the 1936 Dodge pickup truck, he said. …