I run my city

Surprising architecture seen on the run in downtown Tulsa.

Surprising architecture seen on the run in downtown Tulsa.

Not too long ago, I wrote about how you see a city much differently on foot than you do from inside a car. The car can be isolating, so much so that it even dictates where in a community you tend to go. When you’re on foot, things look, smell and sound much different. It’s a more intimate experience, good or bad.

In the past, I’ve tried to pack in a run or two in every city to which I’ve traveled. Whether it’s for a race (Oklahoma City comes to mind) or business (Washington, D.C.), taking a tour of a city on foot has a much different feel than hitting the highway.

But how well do we get to know our own communities? How much have you explored your own city?

This is hard to do if you train only in a specific park or put in most of your miles at a track or on a treadmill. Since moving to Tulsa nearly three years ago, exploring the city via the run has been a conscious — and worthwhile — practice for me.

When I tell people I live in Tulsa, most people think about the plains, oil derricks, red-state stereotypes and so forth. Honestly, I felt the same way when coming here as a teen many years ago (I’ve lived here before), and when I took a job here I wasn’t all that fired up about it. But the city has surprised me, and has revealed itself mostly through its interaction with me as I pound out the miles. My guess is what you think you know about it (if anything) and what it actually is are two different things.

Over the past couple of years I’ve taken moments here and there photographing the places I run. So let’s take a tour.

Tulsa is Oklahoma’s second-largest city, a hub for energy, banking and aerospace. There are about 400,000 people living in the city and nearly a million in the metro area. As such, it’s developed a pretty stately downtown.

A 1920s-era high rise, the 320 South Boston Building, reflected on a more modern glass tower. The contrast of old-style art deco and modern architecture is beautiful.

A 1920s-era highrise, the 320 South Boston Building, reflected on a more modern glass tower. The contrast of old-style art deco and modern architecture is beautiful.

Dramatic highrises cast long shadows over some of the city's older, classic buildings. It's fun running through  places like this.

Dramatic highrises cast long shadows over some of the city’s older, classic buildings. It’s fun running through places like this.

Part of any city’s growth these days is reclaiming run-down areas and making them new. These are places where people now gather for fun while not forgetting the city’s past.

Downtown Tulsa as seen from the Brady Arts District. Brady used to be a rundown warehouse district, but is now home to a number of galleries, restaurants, pubs, music venues and a sweet little park that is home to live music and food trucks. A free outdoor music festival last summer drew some 40,000 people here. I run here a lot, and there is usually something pretty cool to see.

Downtown Tulsa as seen from the Brady Arts District. Brady used to be a rundown warehouse district, but is now home to a number of galleries, restaurants, pubs, music venues and a sweet little park that is home to live music and food trucks. A free outdoor music festival last summer drew some 40,000 people here. I run here a lot, and there is usually something pretty cool to see.

The center of what used to be the center of the Black Wall Street. Before the race riots of 1921, this was a prosperous commercial district for Tulsa's black community. It's since been revived, but in a different way. Running here spurred me to learn more about the riots and how that still affects the city today.

The center of what used to be the center of the Black Wall Street. Before the race riots of 1921, this was a prosperous commercial district for Tulsa’s black community. It’s since been revived, but in a different way. Running here spurred me to learn more about the riots and how that still affects the city today.

One of the statues at Reconciliation Park, which memorializes the Tulsa Race Riots. The park is on the Brady District's north side and is worth a visit. I run through here at least a few times a week.

One of the statues at Reconciliation Park, which memorializes the Tulsa Race Riots. The park is on the Brady District’s north side and is worth a visit. I run through here at least a few times a week.

An Aztec-style mural in the Blue Dome District in downtown Tulsa. There is a lot of mural art throughout downtown.

An Aztec-style mural in the Blue Dome District in downtown Tulsa. There is a lot of mural art throughout downtown.

Green spaces are a big deal here. Northeastern Oklahoma has been dubbed “Green Country” by some (personally, I think that’s a TV marketing thing), and it fits. We’re on the eastern edge of the Ozarks and we do trees here, a stark contrast to the more open prairie that exists further west. As such, the parks have a pretty green feel to them, and people take advantage of it when the weather is good.

Lots of folks enjoying some nice weather at River Parks. This stretch of parks along the banks of the Arkansas River is a favorite place for runners, walkers, cyclists and people just wanting to hang out. I run here a lot.

Lots of folks enjoying some nice weather at River Parks. This stretch of parks along the banks of the Arkansas River is a favorite place for runners, walkers, cyclists and people just wanting to hang out. I run here a lot.

The River Parks pedestrian bridge connects the east and west bank trail systems that line the banks of the Arkansas River. It's also a photogenic little span.

The River Parks pedestrian bridge connects the east and west bank trail systems that line the banks of the Arkansas River. It’s also a photogenic little span.

Another bridge, this one at south Tulsa's Haikey Creek Park. This is a nice green space with an unpaved trail loop. It also is a hotspot for disc golf enthusiasts.

Another bridge, this one at south Tulsa’s Haikey Creek Park. This is a nice green space with an unpaved trail loop. It also is a hotspot for disc golf enthusiasts.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that I have a trail running haunt that’s about 15 minutes from my doorstep. Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness is a rarity in Middle America. It’s not really a “mountain” per se, but instead some rugged, wooded ridges that were set aside by the city and a charitable trust for the purpose of keeping some of the natural environment of the area free from commercial or residential development. It’s turned into the city’s top destination for trail runners, mountain bikers, horseback riders, hikers and anyone else just wanting to get away from suburbia or work worries and just walk in the woods for awhile. I’m an all-season guy, so I’ve seen Turkey Mountain in its various seasonal aspects.

A wood-lined section of Turkey Mountain's Ho Chi trail during the summer. The scores of miles of trails here offer some of the most challenging trail running and cycling trails you can find.

A wood-lined section of Turkey Mountain’s Ho Chi trail during the summer. The scores of miles of trails here offer some of the most challenging trail running and cycling trails you can find.

Late fall and winter conditions on the Snake Trail at Turkey Mountain. Sweet singletrack.

Late fall and winter conditions on the Snake Trail at Turkey Mountain. Sweet singletrack.

Sometimes we get snow, and when we do, Turkey Mountain is a lot of fun.

Sometimes we get snow, and when we do, Turkey Mountain is a lot of fun.

There is a lot more to the city than what I’ve pictured here, way more to explore. And sure, there are some places that aren’t so great or are just kind of boring. But that’s the beauty of exploration. Had it not been for my running habit (and my compulsion to get outside), there are many parts of the city I would never have seen. I definitely have my favorite spots (my “urban trail), but I’d like to see more.

So go ahead. Lace up those shoes, find a place in your community you’d like to see and map out your run. You might be surprised at the experience. It’s way different on two feet than it is on four wheels.

Bob Doucette

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7 thoughts on “I run my city

  1. Great photos and write up. I agree that running is the best way to see an area. When you walk you can’t cover as much ground and when driving you can’t see everything and cannot stop when ever you want to.
    When we go somewhere around town and my wife drives, I’m always looking out the side window to look down side streets and the houses as they go by. I’m often amazed to see something that I have never noticed before on a street I travel all the time.
    When ever I travel I try to get in atleast one run.

    • That’s a great thing to do! I try to do the same. You just notice more details. And for people who aren’t as familiar with downtown as me, I can tell them exactly where to go. Chances are, I’ve been to the place they want to go, whether it’s a restaurant, bar, club or park. Makes me appreciate my community so much more!

  2. Man, you summed up my feelings exactly. We moved to T-town about 6 years ago and it was only after I started running a few years ago that I learned to appreciate what Tulsa has to offer. I REALLY learned to love the city while I was training for the Route 66 marathon this past fall. So many things you see when exploring on foot. You hit the highlights of many of my favorite spots around town as well. Great pics of the city.

  3. I agree and have come to know my area of northern New Jersey much better since I started running regularly. But since I prefer to trail run, my running has helped me get to know the last remaining forested areas in the region. Today I had my first chance to run in Rockefeller State Forest in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Being able to run in these parks and nature preserves helps make living in a dense area more enjoyable. And being able to picture the runs when I am not running is an added benefit.

    • I completely agree with that. I try to make sure I hit the trails at least weekly, of not more, for just that reason. It’s more expedient to run the streets, but the time taken to hit the trails is always worth it.

  4. Pingback: Top Things to Do Around Broken Arrow |

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