I find myself in a much different place this year compared to last.
When I ran the 2012 Tulsa Run, I was just getting into shape. I typified the slower, plodding shuffler. The event was my big race of the year.
A year later, things have changed. I’ve got a bunch of other races under my belt, some longer than the Tulsa Run. And I’m just four weeks away from running in the 2013 Route 66 Marathon. This weekend was a step-back week on the training schedule, which made competing in the Tulsa Run a nice fit.
But I’d be lying if I told you that this was just another training run. I had new goals in mind for this one and wanted to do well. Besides, this is one of the biggest running events in the city and state.
As a 15K, it doesn’t have the weight of half and full marathons. But it’s a prestigious event just the same. Cash prizes go to the top three winners, and for some extra juice, the Tulsa Run was also the race for the 2013 USATF Masters Championships. So in addition to the everyman runners, the costumed runners and everyone in between, there were also elite athletes lining up at the start line. Between the 15K and the 5K, nearly 10,000 people took part.
Can’t recap the race without giving proper respect to the serious competitors. Last year, Julius Kogo won a close race with a time of 44:36. This year, it was no contest. The Kenyan ran a blistering 43:42, smoking the competition by 17 seconds.
Winning the women’s division was Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, who set a scorching 49:24 pace.
Among the Masters, Daniel Mutai took first with a time of 51:41 for the men while Julie Donelson clocked in at 1:04 to lead the women.
When the leaders passed by me going back north, it looked like a tight race. Five runners side-by-side, clipping along at a mid-4 minute per mile pace. It’s an amazing thing to see that sort of athleticism on display.
Hats off to Kogo who defended his crown with style.
What’s great about this race (and many others like it) is that among these elite runners there is room for the rest of us.
Little kids and the senior set. People dressed like superheroes and bacon. Yeah, bacon. And more than a few ladies in those puffy tutu things.
Seventeen people raced Saturday who have been in every Tulsa Run since it started in 1978. I don’t know of any race in the state that has that kind of participant loyalty. There are bigger, more challenging races out there, but like I wrote last year, the Tulsa Run is a community event. It’s something we Tulsans do.
The weather proved ideal. It was overcast and about 50 degrees at the start, and the stiff south breeze at the beginning backed off pretty quickly. Couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
How it went
Like I said earlier, I’m a different runner now than I was a year ago. I’m 10 pounds lighter, My weekly mileage totals are about three times as much as they were back then (although I’ll back off once the marathon is done). I’m faster and stronger. So I really wanted to test myself.
And that’s pretty much what all of us are doing. Maybe we’ll have some friends we’ll try to beat, but few of us are anywhere close to cracking to top 100 finishers. Very few. So we test ourselves, compete against our past. For the better runners, it’s shooting for the mug — competitors who finish under an hour get a commemorative coffee cup along with their finisher’s medal. For the rest of us, it’s a competition against the clock.
Last year, I finished in 1:43. Not very fast at all, but I was pleased to have run the whole thing through and overcome a brief illness to get back into shape to finish the race.
But that was last year. This year, I wanted to push much, much harder and crack 90 minutes. By no means is that speedy, but for me it is. I’m just not very fast.
The course starts on a downhill out of downtown. I figured I’d let gravity do the work for me and bomb down that section. When I found room in the midst of the crowd, I did just that.
Trouble is, I couldn’t help myself. I liked that speed and tried to maintain it. And for the first 5-6K, it worked out OK. But I started too fast and began to fade in the second half of the race. It usually showed up at aid stations, where I’d linger a bit longer than normal to drink and catch my breath.
And let me step back a bit. I made some mistakes the day before. On that day, I decided to run some pretty hilly trails. Again, I was feeling pretty good, so I blasted that loop hard. Running hills the day before a race? Not a good idea. And having a couple of beers and a cocktail that night certainly didn’t help either. So when I woke up the morning of the race I was tight, a little sore and dehydrated.
Oh well. I had fun on those trails, and I had a good time that night. The cumulative effect of all that fun was no excuse to not push myself on race day.
The downhill part of the race gave way to a long flat section, which has you go back north into downtown before the final 3K, which is all uphill. That stretch on Boston Avenue is a source of much groaning among most Tulsa Run competitors.
The final “aid station” was actually a group of running friends offering free beer to runners. What the heck. I got me some of that before the final 10 blocks.
Some friends cheered for me as I neared the final couple of blocks. Really, the finish line crowd was pretty great, and it’s always pretty special to finish the run in the shadows of Tulsa’s tallest skyscrapers. The clock at the finish line came into view, and it was then that I knew I would reach my goal.
My finish time: 1:28:06, a full 15 minutes faster than last year.
After collecting my medal, I searched for my buds and watched others cross the finish. Soon after, a post-race victory lunch and a nap.
I was surprised how sore I was for the rest of the day. All that from 9.3 miles? Yep. That and a bloody toenail. Guess I was working pretty hard.
So now that’s done, and it’s on to Route 66. Four more weeks. And this week is going to be the toughest one on my training schedule, with a 20-miler on tap for Saturday. I’m sure that race will have a whole different feel.
Come next fall, however, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back for the Tulsa Run. Maybe I’ll be able to crack 1:20…
On Twitter @RMHigh7088