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.
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.
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.
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.
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.