by Mary Smith
I was ten years old when my family moved to Tulsa. The same year, the city began a new fall tradition—The Tulsa Run. Thirty-eight years later, the race and I are both still part of this great city.
I first ran the historic event in 2012. I had only been a runner for a few months when I decided to enter the 15K race. Having only completed one other race—a 5K—I wanted to try a longer distance. I didn’t know that the Tulsa Run was about to become one of my favorite events.
The race boasts over 10,000 runners. Most are from Oklahoma, but many are drawn here from other states and even other countries. Incredibly, there is a small group of participants who have run this event every year since 1978! Some runners who have moved away from Tulsa still return each October to run this event with their local friends and family. All these facts make the race feel like a reunion of sorts.
On race day you’ll see the full spectrum of racing abilities; from elite runners to walkers. It’s a great course to find your own pace and just run. The race is always scheduled for the last Saturday of October and near Halloween, so the field is usually dotted with costumed runners, which adds a festival atmosphere to the run.
My favorite part of this event is the finish chute. Running down the middle of Boston Avenue, flanked by tall buildings and the gathered crowd, hearing your name called over the speaker—it’s a feeling you can’t get any other way.
But, racing is really only a small part of my running experience. Most of my miles are spent in training runs. Early in the morning, starting in the dark, and watching the sunrise. These morning sessions are the work of a runner. These are the miles where the medals are earned. It takes dedication over many weeks to gain the capacity to finish races.
Through the years, I’ve found that running has become more to me than just completing miles. It’s about even more than improved strength and body composition and better sleep. Running has changed me; given me clarity and focus. Training seasons represent hours of time on roads and paved trails. Hours that allow me solitude to clear my mind, search out my heart, ponder and pray. Some of these hours have been in the company of family members. I train with my husband and daughter. Two of our sons are also runners. When our miles overlap, it’s a treat!
Running is now a big part of the way I connect to my community. The encounters I’ve had through running are varied and valuable. My most surprising byproduct of becoming a runner, is that running has helped stretch me beyond the label of introvert, to meet others. I’ve pushed through internal barriers and made many new friends. With many we exchange only a casual nod and smile of acknowledgement. With others the conversation stays largely superficial, hovering on topics of terrain and weather. But with a few, I’ve enjoyed deep conversations on family, fitness, faith, and everything in between.
This year my whole family is registered for the Tulsa Run. The city tradition has become a personal tradition and now, may also be the start of a family tradition.
Mary enjoys experiencing life with her family, cycling, running, and cooking simple, seasonal meals. She is also the Fitness Coordinator for the Youth and Family Complex at First United Methodist Church. You can read her personal blog at Bike Run Cook: A Conversation on Food, Fitness and Enjoying a Deeply Satisfying Life. Follow on Instagram @marysgold.