When I was reading a story about the 35th annual Tulsa Run, one runner called it “a bucket list” item for him. That’s how most people would describe something like the marathons in Boston and New York, but understanding what this particular race is to Tulsa is to know a little about what this man was talking about.
The Tulsa Run for years was the main long-distance race in Oklahoma. Marathons later came around, and with them, the prestige of bagging that 26.2. Ultras are now a part of the Oklahoma running scene.
But the 15k Tulsa Run is the granddaddy of them all in this state. In Tulsa, the Route 66 Marathon is the premier race (it takes place next month) for the year, the top athletic event for the area in terms of running. The Tulsa Run, however, is the community’s event. Despite the growth of the sport, the Tulsa Run still attracts 9,000 to 10,000 every year. Some highlights…
Some people get discouraged when they go out there and then see how far back they are from the leaders. Others are inspired. Count me among the latter. Heading past 5k and motoring slowly south, I saw a pack of the leaders steaming back north at a pace I’m sure I couldn’t keep for a quarter mile. Julius Kogo, a Kenyan who trains in North Carolina, won the race with a blistering time of 44:36.
Hellen Jemutai, also a Kenyan training in North Carolina, won the women’s division, scorching a fast track with a time of 51:13.
For the top 3 finishers, there were cash prizes. And I’m sure running this race made for an ideal tune-up for future, longer races.
Most of us won’t sniff these times, but it’s pretty cool to see what folks are capable of doing and inspiring to watch them do it.
An estimated 9,800 people ran Saturday morning, with roughly half of them doing the 5k and the rest in the 15k. Race time temps were about 33 degrees at start time, forcing many folks to hide out in downtown parking garages until right before it was time to line up.
I’ll admit, it was tempting to keep my jacket on, but I knew that once we got cookin’, my body would warm up just fine. It was sunny, mostly calm and awesome. We could not have asked for better conditions for a distance event.
Organizers had live bands playing music every 3k or so, which was pretty cool. Aid stations seemed to be set up every 5k or so, maybe less, and more than adequate. Folks were into it, though I heard some people grumble that the there-and-back course wasn’t very interesting. Perhaps a more exciting course could have been set up, but I was OK with it. I like running along Riverside Drive, and running out and back into downtown Tulsa is pretty cool.
Missing from this year’s race was Jack Wing, known as “The Voice of the Tulsa Run.” The former race director and longtime announcer passed away this year, and a lot of runners wore T-shirts commemorating his contribution to this event. He was memorable – anyone announcing an Oklahoma race with a Boston accent is going to be noticed and remembered. The last mile of the race was called The Jack Wing Memorial Mile. A fitting tribute to a guy who gave so much.
Also worthy of note: the race made sure to recognize the people who had run all 35 Tulsa Run races. Much respect to those folks!
While I was perusing Facebook, I saw a post on the TATUR Racing page that criticized the Tulsa Sports Commission’s contention that this year’s race had 3,500 more competitors than last year, and that the numbers put out from race officials were a little squishy.
This unleashed a flood of other criticisms in the comments section. All I could think of was that people can get fired up about things that, in the long view, don’t really matter. Numbers are important to a lot of people. But to me, the experience mattered more. How did your own race go? Did you have fun? Did you do your best? And for the truly competitive types (those who stood to place high overall or in their age group), did you do as well as you’d hoped?
Those are the important questions. Sure, there may be race politics going on somewhere, but it has little bearing on what actually happened during the race. At least in my case. And that was also true for a lot of people I knew who were there. Like, 9,800 of us.
Hats Off to My Buds
What makes the Tulsa Run such a great event is that it inspires people to challenge themselves to push their limits. I had two friends who did a Couch to 5k program, and ran their first race on Saturday. Big ups to Sharryn and Newt for setting a goal and getting it done!
A co-worker of mine, Adam, ran it in 1:30. A former co-worker, Lindsay, clocked a 1:28. And friend from my college days, Monica, had an 8:38 pace (1:21 finish). Monica’s transformation from her days in college to a cycling and running speedster has been impressive, to say the least.
I had a lot of other friends and colleagues who ran the 5k and 15k events, and knowing they were there pushed me through some training setbacks that made me wonder how well I’d do.
I want to be as transparent as possible on this, because I know that times matter in the world of running. (Just ask Paul Ryan.)
I was slow. Bottom quartile slow. An 11-minute pace and a 1:43 finish. Yeah, nothing to write home about. But I had fun.
People ran in costumes. Elmo was there. Folks stood on the sidelines in 33-degree weather and cheered. I got to see running greatness.
And there were funny moments. One group of spectators held signs that said, “Go Random Stranger! We’re pulling for you!”
As I passed them, I yelled, “Hey! I’m the Random Stranger! Thank you for supporting me!”
That got a laugh from them and a few runners around me who had enough energy left to let out a chuckle.
Crossing the finish line, I was pleased, all things considered. I maintained an even pace through the entire race. Never stopped, never slowed, and powered through the final, all-uphill 3k of the race with enough gas in the tank to speed up the final few blocks to sprint across the line. I know that doesn’t do much for improving my time; it’s more of a mental pick-me-up than anything else, digging a little deeper to finish strong. Call it pride.
The real reason I’m pleased was how bad my last four weeks of training went. After my Colorado road trip to climb Mount of the Holy Cross, I fought off a cold for a week. I then succumbed to that cold the next week, basically shutting myself down during that span. When I was better, there were only two weeks left before the race – not enough time to make much of a push to train up for race day.
When it was all said and done, I hadn’t done a long run in five weeks before race day. So I’m pretty sore today.
But this is a step toward other goals, and a chance to participate in my city’s biggest athletic event. I can remember days not that long ago where contemplating a run of 15k seemed outrageous. Training for this race got me well past that barrier, and actually running the race – feeding off the energy of other runners – was all the reward I needed. And that’s really all I was hoping for, that when it was over I could look back and see that the race was a sweet dessert.
It also is a springboard for future goals. Faster times, bigger races, and an eye on upcoming trail races.
I’m not sure I’ll call it a bucket list race for me, but it is something I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ll run definitely it again.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088