This weekend Peter and I ran in the 37th annual Tulsa Run—the most historic run in Oklahoma, considered by many to be the premier running event in the state. This year, we were among a massive pack of over 9,000 runners from 37 states who took to the streets to celebrate the old and noble tradition of pounding out a few hard miles at sunrise to do one, if not all, of the following: have fun, get fit, accomplish a goal, support a cause, earn a medal, have a cold beer at nine o’clock in the morning. We’re firm believers that anything worth doing is worth doing right, so we ran for all of these reasons.
The Tulsa Run was an unforgettable event for many reasons, the first being that this was our first road race since moving to Tulsa. Not knowing what exactly to expect is what lead to so many unexpected moments of awe and intrigue throughout the race. These moments began pre-dawn when we parked our car at the instant a grackle swarm erupted from the tree we parked next to and continued as the first rays of sunlight began illuminating the Art Deco architecture of the downtown skyscrapers.
With Peter and I both running different events at separate times, we were lucky enough to be able to experience the starting and ending moments of the races as both participants and spectators. Peter’s 5K was first on the schedule at 7:50, so I took the first turn holding our gear, pumping Peter up, taking pictures, and absorbing the atmosphere. A big part of the atmosphere was the sound. The location of the start and finish lines downtown meant every single sound was amplified and echoed throughout the corridors. This caused the national anthem to be more dramatic and sonorous, the shotgun start to be more terrifying, the slapping of shoes on pavement to be more thunderous, and the shouts of encouragement and celebration to be more uplifting. Pairing the sounds with the sights found along a course that wound through some of Tulsa’s most scenic neighborhoods made for a great run and a great way to start the day. It was a great day made even better with our race results.
Peter’s 5K time was 21:55, which broke his PR by 1:52!! His time also landed him 8th in his age group! He’s been dropping time steadily since starting an eight-week advanced training schedule and everything really came together with this race. I was incredibly impressed when I saw him fighting through the final hill to the finish line because he looked spent (always a good indicator of just how hard you’re working) but he also looked 100 percent like a RUNNER—like a man with something to prove and he certainly proved it with this race.
After Peter finished his race, our celebration was energetic and I wish it could have lasted longer, but I had to quickly shift gear and start warming up for my 15K. It quickly became clear to both of us that the 15K was definitely the highlight event of the Tulsa Run, owing mainly to the fact that the Tulsa Run is the venue for the USATF Masters 15K Championship. The Masters started their championship race at 8:50 and the 15K open started right after at 9:00. Although I was nervous, my nerves settled a bit and I got a chuckle in when the gun when off and…nothing happened. Because of the massive number of runners and my starting position with the 1:35 pace group, it was a good two minutes before I actually crossed the starting line and started running. It was a good way to ease into the start though and gave me the time I needed to warm up.
The first six miles felt absolutely amazing for me. I moved up to the 1:32 pace group and was able to maintain my pace throughout the course, which included an unbelievable number of hills. I took gels 15 minutes prior to the race and 45 minutes into the run and everything felt fantastic. Things definitely started to take a noticeable change for me at around the 10K mark though. This was right around the time the course took its first of two crosses over the Arkansas River. I wish I could have focused on how beautiful the scenery was, but the hills and the distance were starting to take their toll and I had to shift into mental focus mode. I was still able to throw out a couple high-fives to the kids watching the race and mouth my thank-yous to the volunteers and sign-holders, so I knew that I was going to be okay, I just needed to start making some adjustments to my pace.
The hardest—and I mean HARDEST—part of the race came during the last 1.25 miles, which was preceded by a TPD officer who advised slowing your pace because the next stretch would be “deceptive” and “rolling.” Ugggghhhh, was he right on the money. I had studied the course a dozen times before the race and I knew this would be a hilly stretch, but I had no idea it would be as abysmally hilly and steep as it turned out to be. I had to slow down to a jog that was more like a shuffle, but I made it past the worst of the hills to the final stretch…which was also on a hill. It wasn’t the fastest finish, or the strongest, but I had my thumbs up and a smile on my face when I crossed the finish line—and that made the finish feel pretty flawless to me. My final time was 1:32:30 and I met my goal of finishing my first 15K under a 10 m/m pace!
The Tulsa Run was an amazing, memorable event for Peter and I and there were definitely a few observations we took away from the experience:
1) Hills. We’re in the Midwest now, which pretty much means you’re guaranteed never to run a flat race. If we ever do run a flat(ter) race in the future though, this means we’ll be in good shape.
2) Heat. It was 60 degrees on October 26th when we woke up at 5:45 for the Tulsa Run. While the weather for Peter’s 5K was excellent, it was in the mid-70s when I finished my 15K at 10:30. With the latter portion of the course being in full sun, this was almost unbearable. Very glad we both made the easy decision to wear short sleeves and shorts for this race.
3) Shotgun start. They have those here and they’re amazing. It was a really exciting way to start the races.
4) Beer. We have quickly discovered that “beer” and “running” tend to fall in the same sentence here in Tulsa. Any activity that involves running, whether it’s a weekday run with the Tulsa Runner or Fleet Feet running groups, a weekend training session, or an official race like the Tulsa Run, there is almost always free beer provided afterwards. In a state where alcohol sales are so strictly mandated and controlled, it’s really, really weird to see that free beer is almost always provided after running events. It’s one of the most fantastic, bizarre, wonderful things we’ve encountered here in Tulsa!
5) Love. We are LOVING running right now. Training for this race and the Route 66 Marathon coming up in November has solidified running as one of our favorite activities to do together and has given us so many ways to connect with the Tulsa community.