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Updated: Feb 11


Tulsa, OK

The Mother Road

Day 1: Friday, November 17, 2023

On November 19, 2023, I would run the Mother Road, a name coined by John Steinbeck for the historic Route 66 in his 1939 novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Throughout history, Route 66 has been a symbol of hope and possibilities, especially for Midwest and Texas families during the Dust Bowl migration, and in today's time, I learned Route 66 is great for road trips. During this road trip, Oklahoma would become the 13th state on my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. My car's odometer hit 100,000 miles as I crossed the Oklahoma border during my nearly 6-hour road trip. The numbers on the odometer ticking from 99,999 to six figures represented 100,000 miles of adventures and memories, during all kinds of weather across many different states over many years. My car — which I named Sangria the Kia for her paint color in the shade of "sangria red" — had 43 miles on her when I bought her brand new 5 years ago, so 100,000 miles was a significant milestone for both of us.

Until I hit the city limits of Tulsa, I was surrounded by typical rural Midwestern scenery, which was not too dissimilar from what I am accustomed to seeing while driving around my home state. The rolling hills of the farmlands then gave way to the elegant, charismatic city skyline of downtown Tulsa, which reminded me a lot of Kansas City or Chicago with its architecture, but on a much smaller scale. Tulsa's Art Deco aesthetic is one of the many things it is known for, and when Tulsa, also known as the Magic City, became the "Oil Capital of the World," the area became an architectural hotbed when designers, artists, and architects flocked to the rapidly developing city in the 1920's. What immediately struck me when I arrived was Tulsa was very quiet and the streets were completely empty. In our century, the quiet was reminiscent of what many cities were like during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. A century earlier, this must have been how empty the streets were during the Great Depression, or when the Dust Bowl of the 1930's led to the massive migration of farmers and families from Oklahoma and Texas, traveling on Route 66 in search of new opportunities in the West.

I felt like I was walking around downtown Kansas City on a Friday afternoon, except without a single pedestrian in sight and non-existent vehicle traffic. Where were all the people? An intrusive thought came in the form of remembering a scene from the 2007 movie I Am Legend — which takes place years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into zombies — when Will Smith's character Robert Neville says in frustration, "Everybody is dead!" The other thing I noticed, besides the almost dystopian lack of people, was an excessive amount of one-way streets, which added a layer of complexity in navigation for a tourist like me glued to the GPS (which lies).

I learned the metered street parking was free on weekends, and I would not have to worry about paying for parking for the duration of my stay. Parking was still fairly limited downtown, since everyone decided to park on the street and there was a shortage of free parking lots. I parallel-parked on Boston Avenue across from my hotel, and decided I would walk everywhere I needed to go for the rest of the weekend so I would not lose my excellent parking spot. Decent food options were all within walking distance, and so were the start line and finish festival for the race, as well as the packet pick-up location, the Cox Business Center.

Down the block from where I was staying was a cozy Italian restaurant I selected for dinner, Il Seme. The food and service were both outstanding, and I had a very generous bowl of Bolognese. I was also "tricked" into ordering a serving of focaccia bread which was listed on the menu as an $8 appetizer for at least two people, and because I do not know how to behave around warm bread, I said "yes" without hesitation when my server cheerfully asked, "Would you like some bread before your meal comes out?" I ended up with nearly an entire loaf of delicious buttery bread that I took back to my room with me, and it later became a post-race snack.

The Magic City

Day 2: Saturday, November 18, 2023

Breakfast the next morning was chaos in the hotel lobby as the most recent graduating Leadership Oklahoma class was checking out of the hotel, and families with small children had converged on the continental breakfast buffet in feral, loud masses, which was a recipe for me to become extremely overstimulated first thing that morning. I counted at least 11 small children, all under the age of 10, screaming and spilling orange juice all over the counters where the food was situated. I have nothing against kids, and I actually like kids on most days, but I was struggling with such a high concentration of them in such a small area so early when I'm trying to peacefully enjoy my coffee. At one point I left the hotel in search of a quieter option, and when I realized everything else was closed, I retreated back to the hotel lobby and hunkered down in a corner away from everyone with my coffee and bagel.

I outlined what I planned to do for the day, which included visiting historical sites in downtown Tulsa, picking up my packet and checking out the race expo, and scoping out a decent option for pre-race dinner that evening. I ruled out the possibility of driving so I'd keep my parking spot for the weekend, and because the weather was beautiful, I was excited about exploring downtown entirely on foot. I was not worried about doing a lot of walking before the race — I looked at it as an opportunity to warm up my muscles and get in some low impact time on my feet, and it would pale in comparison to the amount of walking (in stilettos!) my friends and I did in Las Vegas before the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon.

After a bit of down time in my room, the first place I visited was Cherry Street Kitchen for lunch. I ordered their amazing Humboldt Co. Turkey Melt, which consisted of honey mesquite turkey, herb goat cheese spread, mixed greens, fig jam and fresh tomato. My super down-to-earth husband would have made fun of me for ordering what he would call a "hipster sandwich" — he would run in the other direction at the mention of such a pretentious combination like herb goat cheese spread and fig jam — but it was just the kind of comfort food that filled my soul with happiness the day before a half marathon.

After lunch I headed down to the Cox Business Center to pick up my packet at the Williams Route 66 Marathon Health and Fitness Expo. One of the most amazing things about this 50 states journey is running into friends!!! Elizabeth and I have been friends on Facebook for a few years now, and she was one of the people who originally inspired me to run a half marathon in all 50 states through her advocacy with Marathons Against Domestic Violence. It was SO amazing and emotional finally meeting her in person at the race expo and giving her the BIGGEST hug! Elizabeth was one of the exhibitors, and she was representing Himalayan Scenery Treks & Expedition. She fell in love with Nepal after climbing Mount Everest and reaching Base Camp (yes... she is a badass who does it all!!!). The expo had some great swag, and I ended up purchasing a tank top from Raw Threads and trying on some very tempting sweatshirts and T-shirts.

After the expo, it was time to do some sightseeing downtown. The most impactful part of my trip was visiting John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. It was an experience that I have been reflecting on since I left, with gratitude for having learned so much, yet also with great sadness. John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park commemorates the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the most traumatic civic disturbances in American history since the Civil War. On May 31, 1921, the horrific destruction of Greenwood and the murder of Black citizens began, and a majority of the district’s blocks, which included homes of Black families and Black-owned businesses, were razed to the ground.

The Greenwood district, the most prosperous Black community in the country at the time, was famously nicknamed Black Wall Street, and it represented hope for Black people in America. After the destruction of Greenwood, the community rose from the ashes and left a legacy of triumph in the face of tragedy. John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park not only features historic monuments, but upon entering the park, you are taken on a whole journey and learn the stories of the survivors, the community, and the history of Black Wall Street in Greenwood, which includes accounts of the 1921 massacre. I began my visit to the park with Hope Plaza, a 16-foot granite structure with three bronze sculptures, which showcases actual pictures from the 1921 massacre. I then spent time studying the Tower of Reconciliation at the center of the park, which is a 25-foot memorial tower that displays the early struggles of the Oklahoma Territory and the lively history of Black Wall Street in Greenwood. My final stop was the Healing Walkway, a labyrinth that serves as a beautiful place to reflect on history, the traumas experienced by the Black community, resilience, community healing, and how much work we still have left to do as a country.

My heart was heavy as I left John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, and the experience stayed with me for the rest of my trip and will continue to live in my memory forever. From the park, I walked down the road to Magic City Books, a charming little bookstore at the heart of downtown, owned by the nonprofit Tulsa Literary Coalition. By the time I left the bookstore hours later, it was time for dinner. I decided on Andolini's Pizzeria, and in keeping with my tradition of trying pizza in each state, I sampled two slices of pepperoni. It was as close to New York in Oklahoma as I could get, and it hit the spot.

Rocking the Route with Nose Napkins and Mimosas

Race Day: Sunday, November 19, 2023

On race morning, I stepped out on Boston Avenue and was welcomed by a light drizzle. Seeing runners and spectators milling about in ponchos and rain gear, I made the executive decision to run up to my room to grab my trusty Red Rocks Amphitheatre poncho that kept me dry in Colorado. The weather, to include the light rain, was perfect race weather — a mild and damp 51° F with a gentle 6 mph breeze. I headed towards the starting line at 7th and Main Street, and found my start corral. I was assigned Corral D, and we had been instructed to enter at the intersection of 3rd and Main. A sea of ponchos, trash bags turned into ponchos, and umbrellas hovered around the start corral and spilled out into the streets as runners and spectators clamored for shelter from the rain under the awnings of the buildings lining the street.

Each corral crossed the starting line to the fanfare of music and confetti, which rained down on runners and clung to us for the first several miles. When I was on the receiving end of our corral's personal ticker tape parade, the confetti stuck to my poncho on the outside and somehow managed to get on the inside, and I was still finding confetti everywhere in my hotel room the next morning after hanging my poncho to dry. It was a cute reminder of the colorful, exciting, and lively atmosphere that was Tulsa's biggest party. We started our 13.1 mile tour of Tulsa downtown, which is renowned for the second largest collection of Art Deco architecture outside of Miami. The first mile was a very gentle, very gradual easy downhill, and I savored every minute of it while my muscles warmed up. The first mile was also my opportunity to get accustomed to managing my upper respiratory infection and all of the glamorous gelatinous mucus plaguing my sinuses, throat, and nose. My husband and I had picked up our colds (presumably) in the airport en route to our Caribbean vacation, which we'd taken the week prior over Veteran's Day weekend.

I felt good enough to run the race and did not have a fever, but the mucus quickly became tiresome. As an endurance athlete, you sometimes have to do things that you otherwise would not do in normal social situations or environments, and because I did not bring tissues with me due to the rain, my sleeve became my best option for nose-blowing. I was on high alert for photographers whenever I blew my nose, hoping a stray photographer hidden in the bushes wouldn't capture me with my face buried in my sleeve.

That being said, once we hit the neighborhoods of Tulsa, we came across a few unofficial aid stations offering alcoholic beverages and unconventional treats, and my favorite aid station of them all was one in which a woman was offering "nose napkins and mimosas." The rain had subsided to a barely perceptible light mist, and so I loaded up on tissues and thanked the tissue and mimosa lady profusely. Other runners made their approval known as well, concurring that this had been their favorite aid station. I enthusiastically blew my nose at the sight of the next trash can and saved my second set of tissues for later. I'd have to time my tissue use perfectly before the rain started again.

After mile 1, the journey to mile 2 was a gradual uphill, and all throughout the rest of the course there were frequent elevation changes with noticeable uphills and barely noticeable declines. I hesitate to call them "gently rolling hills," because some of the hills, especially the last one preceding mile 12, were far from gentle. Around mile 5, I saw a sign that read, "May the course be with you," which made me smile, because it was written in Star Wars block-lettering and also had a drawing of Grogu on it. We ran past some of the most beautiful houses I'd ever seen in the Midwest while we were passing through the neighborhoods of Tulsa, and I mentally made a note of at least two mansions to look up on Zillow later.

Aid stations were spaced out approximately every two miles, and each aid station was manned with friendly and engaging volunteers ready to shower us with water and Gatorade. Mile 5 was when I started to notice more and more ponchos being discarded along the road, and by that time, I'd removed my poncho and carefully packed it away in my Camelbak zippered pouch instead of discarding it. This became important later. The course continued through Midtown, and then we ran along the Arkansas River with beautiful views of damp fall foliage before crossing the historic Route 66 around mile 11.

There were some great opportunities to get photos with the famous Route 66 sign, and a race photographer was positioned to capture some candid shots of runners in front of the sign. Mile 11 began in a decline and then we started to ascend again up the monstrosity known as "Crybaby Hill." My legs were already fatigued from the previous 10 miles' worth of hills, so by the time I began to crest Crybaby Hill, I was nearly in tears, lending credence to the hill's moniker. When we reached the summit, a volunteer cheerfully shouted, "Welcome to Crybaby Hill!" This particular volunteer was gorgeous and looked like she had stepped out of a magazine cover, with perfect hair and a contageous smile. The irony was not lost on me that the welcoming committee for The Very Worst Hill was extremely well put together and looked perfect while we all looked like we were on the verge of death as we climbed the hill, soaked from our sweat and the rain.

The final two miles took us back towards the Tulsa Arts District, where we finished at Guthrie Green. The clouds rolling in over downtown began to darken, and sensing the impending downpour, I made an effort not to linger too long at the finishers' festival. When I crossed the finish line, a volunteer helped me drape a mylar space blanket over my shoulders while another volunteer handed me my medal, which was styled after the iconic Route 66 Historical Village sign on 3770 Southwest Boulevard. Underneath the canopy in the finisher's corral, volunteers handed out warm slices of pepperoni pizza, which had been delivered that morning in heat bags by Simple Simon's Pizza. It was one of the best slices of pizza I'd ever eaten in my calorie-deprived and muscle-fatigued state. After I scarfed down my pizza I made my way to the north-end pavilion right before the rain started to come down in sheets. Under the shelter of the pavilion, I met a fellow Team RWB Eagle, and we snapped a photo together before parting ways in the downpour. My poncho made a reappearance and I carefully arranged my space blanket and medal underneath the poncho, which I was glad I'd saved while everyone else had discarded theirs early on in the race. It was a very cold, very wet half mile walk down MLK Jr. Boulevard back to my hotel.

After a glorious shower I changed into a very warm and comfortable set of sweats, and headed to The Vault for my post-race lunch. I treated myself to pineapple upside down pancakes and scrambled eggs, with a big glass of pineapple juice. The Vault was previously the historic First National Auto Bank, built between 1958 and 1960, and it was the world’s largest autobank during its time with six drive through lanes. Today, it's a favorite brunch spot of locals and tourists. Before heading back to my hotel for some rest, I swung by the Route 66 Historical Village and snapped a photo of my medal with the iconic sign for which the medal was inspired, and took some time to walk around the little village and appreciate its history. Much of the stretch of Route 66 that I drove on my way to the Historical Village was under construction and reduced to one lane, so it made for a very slow and methodical drive there and back.

I finished out my trip with a very early dinner at Rosa Cantina, a small, welcoming little Mexican-inspired cantina with great tacos. While eating my tacos, a group of marathoners staggered through the door, still wearing their medals and race clothes, and struggling to negotiate the set of stairs that would take them down into the dining area. It dawned on me that they likely had just finished the full marathon, whereas mine had ended at least three to four hours earlier. Listening to the marathoners complain about their pain and watching them agonize over every movement as they lowered themselves into their seats, I had a renewed sense of appreciation for only having had to take on Crybaby Hill once.


Hyatt Place/Tulsa Downtown

400 S Boston Ave

Tulsa, OK 74103

Happy running and safe travels,



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