In addition to being the city where I went to high school, college and med school; Tulsa is also the city where I learned to love running. Though I haven’t lived in T-town for nearly 15 years, it is home. My parents still live here and each corner of the geometrically laid out city holds a little note of nostalgia.
Nearly 20 years ago I Iived in a duplex near Riverside drive and the adjacent river parks trail system. I figured it was a waste to live so close to such a beautiful trail and not run on it. Before I knew it, I was pounding out 3-4 miles a day, and a year later I signed up for my first “long race” The Tulsa Run, a 15 k that’s put on every October.
I ran the Tulsa Run, a simple out and back course down Riverside drive, for the next 4 years. I loved the crowds, costumes, race T-shirts and adrenaline. Those were days before Garmins and I never worried about my splits. I ran to be healthy and because I liked to run (and eat cake). I didn’t worry about my time, I was simply thrilled that I had manged to run such a very long way.
Each year since I moved away, I have searched for a way to make it back for the Tulsa Run, but it never pans out. This year I realized I once again would miss my favorite race, but I would be in town for Thanksgiving–and with a little creative travel plans, I could make it for the Route 66 (Half) Marathon.
Since signing up for the race, I have been excited about the chance to run through one of my favorite cities. While I was able to stick pretty closely to my training schedule over the last few months, my race week preparations read like a list of what absolutely not to do the week before a race:
- Worked 70+ hours (including delivering 10 babies in 1 week…. hello ice storm of 2/2015, nice to see you again)
- Didn’t get enough sleep
- “carb loading” was mainly ice cream and wine
- Day before race, drove 12 hours solo with my children and ate mainly fast food
About half way through my drive from Nashville to Tulsa, I realized that despite frequent breaks to stretch and attempt to keep my children from beating each other, my glutes were cramped and achy. I wasn’t sure how this would effect the race, but I doubted I would be hitting sub 1:50. I readjusted my goal to finishing strong and decided to put my goal pace at 8:40. I would try not to obsess about my time, but instead focus on enjoying the experience of racing past my favorite landmarks.
Thankfully my awesome sister picked up my packet for me and had it waiting for me once I finally made it to my parents house.
The race started at 8 am, so I was able to sleep in until 6 which was fabulous. As an added bonus my (step)dad drove me to the race so I didn’t have to fumble around for parking and wait in the cold. Instead I cozied up in the car with him until about 15 minutes before race time. Despite my absolute spoiling of sitting in the balmy car while all the other losers were freezing in the the 25 degree weather, my toes still went numb in the 15 minutes I waited in the corral.
Like most big races, the crowds were thick for the first few miles. I was in corral A (first of four starts) so there wasn’t too much weaving. I was hoping to enjoy the art deco architecture of the many familiar Tulsa skyscrapers, but instead I was too busy trying to avoid snapping my ankle in the many pot holes that have infested the streets of Tulsa. The state of Tulsa’s streets are embarrassingly terrible, I mean third world country bad. I love you Tulsa, but you need to work on those pot holes.
At about mile 3 I had found my pace. I felt good running about 8:40 and I could finally feel my toes. The new trouble was as soon as I could feel my toes, my core was too hot. I realized that I no longer needed my jacket and I had made the mistake of pinning my bib to my jacket instead of my under shirt. I should have worn a throw away outer layer, instead of a jacket. It was a rookie mistake.
The course wound through many of the older gorgeous neighborhoods of midtown Tulsa. A few streets had a spectacular golden and crimson leaves left on their trees. Half frozen spectators shivered as they rang their cowbells and held their signs like “Go Random Stranger” and my new favorite “Run like someone called you a jogger.”
The jaunt through Cascia Hall private school was great in that there were lots of spectators, water and music. It was not so great in that there were 200 speed bumps.
Next came Woodward park, which is slightly less awesome, but still gorgeous, without its azaleas in bloom. The race was well organized with frequent water stops, including a festive one at Woodward hosted by blue cross employees.
The jaunt down Brookside (Peoria) was rowdy. The staff from Lulu Lemon were out in full force with hilarious signs and crazy loud music. Running through Brookside was literally a “run down memory lane” with fond flashbacks of my college days of drinking heavily flavored coffee at Java Dave’s and seeing wannabe grunge bands at the IKON.
Up ahead, I saw my own cheering station where my dad and sister were holding up signs. It is so encouraging to see familiar faces along the route, between their hugs and the GU and water at mile 7, I was supercharged for the next few miles down Riverside drive.
The course then twisted back through the neighborhoods. At mile 9 there was an unofficial block party. Residents had set up a balloon bridge over the road, Journey was blasting “Don’t stop believing'” and tables were set up with Jello shots and beer. I was still running about an 8:30 pace and the thought of alcohol made me want to spew, but several of my comrades were partaking in the festivities and continued to pass me.
Over the next several miles I was glad I had kept a conservative pace because there was an obnoxious number of hills. Luckily I have “athletic quads”according to the skinny sales lady at Lulu Lemon, so hills don’t scare me, but they also don’t allow for a speedy finish either.
As the course headed back to downtown we ran partially across Southwest Boulevard and under the cool “Route 66 bridge”. A guy was dressed as Gandolf at the bridge holding out his staff to each runner announcing “You may pass!” He was great. I geekily laughed for half a mile.
One particularly sad moment was seeing a poor lady running without shoes. She had the rest of her gear on, just no shoes. I’m not sure if she couldn’t afford shoes or if perhaps her luggage got lost. Regardless, I slipped her a $20.
The course finally flattened out around mile 12. I was tired from the hills but still felt I could finish strong. I was particularly inspired by one of the wheel chair racers who was encouraging us runners. She was so positive and inspiring, I felt like I was inside a motivational meme. As positive thinking inspired adrenaline began to surge through my veins, I picked up my pace. My positive thoughts were then quickly interrupted by searing pain in my hands and a jarring pain in my knee as I suddenly found myself kissing the pavement in what had to be quite an ugly fall. My choice phrases to describe Tulsa streets are not repeatable, but needless to say I was quite irritated. Several runners kindly stopped to help me, but it was my pride that was injured more than anything. No blood was dripping, so I got up and finished.
Between the pot holes, speed bumps and hills I think this course could officially be considered an obstacle race. All kidding aside, I really did
enjoy the race course and the scenery. I hope to do the race again next year, maybe it will be my new Thanksgiving tradition. Not sure I would want to ever do the full marathon here, but it would be particularly cool to run through the “Center of the Universe” section of the course. (This is where my husband proposed to me).
I regretted not having more rest time before the race, but it was unexpectedly pleasant to have some downtime after the event. Also, I’m not feeling nearly as guilty about indulging in all my Tulsa favorites like Braum’s, Hideaway and Taco Bueno.
I always imagined when I grew up that I would live in midtown Tulsa, work at St. Francis, buy all my gas at Quick Trip* and run everyday on the Rivertrails. I love my life and job in Tennessee and realize that is where I belong, but this year I’m thankful for the chance to run through the beautiful city of Tulsa.
*I’m a little obsessed with Quciktrip