When: Saturday, September 11, 2010 5:45 AM-8:30 AM. Central Standard Time
Where: Tulsa Fairgrounds (21st & Louisville)
Trust, But Verify
Ever experience one of those occasions where everyone proclaims they are correct, but each with their own version of which left or right is “more right”? Such was last week’s explorations through the University of Tulsa campus, where random groups of runners pursued interpretive course translations. Live and in action were groups coming and going, some in gravitational tracking orbits that threatened to never release their captive prey, each holding what they thought to be the proverbial “one and only true map”. While tightly held by each clammy mitt, these modern yet hieroglyphic mapquest markings were filled with hope, yet provided no golden keys with which to unlock the fading sidewalk chalkings. What is it about running, sweat, early morning dawn, map reading skills, short term memory, directional bearing acuteness, and cognitive reasoning that makes for an impossible blend? We firmly grasp upon the unfulfilled belief that if we stare at the map long enough then the right path will suddenly and miraculously become outlined with luminaries. Running in this environment requires rapid response alertness and the sidestepping and ram avoidance skills of a tailback, as we frequently experienced runners stopping dead in their tracks to take another glimpse of the by now sweat-streaked map and turn instructions.
Another lesson learned was to not be so quick and grateful to follow a fellow runner/runnerette who proclaims that “I know the way”. A couple of miles down the road and in the midst to the TU land of secret passageways, we realized that our due diligence skills fell just a tad short when the “Holderette of Pathways Knowledge” admitted that she knew the last part of the route but not this portion. Aside from stepping on more than a few heels, and smashing noses against the back of abruptly halted heads, the weather couldn’t have been better. And technically, if you really never knew where you were supposed to be, then you really weren’t ever lost.
So with our map-reading skills honed to a sharpness of precision-polished bowling balls, we get another shot at donning our fave Lewis and Clarkette exploring attire with hopes of successfully navigating a brand new trail – once again in near darkness. The advanced marathon group is scheduled for 12 miles, which means we get to run the new course twice, or rather to see if we can successfully run the same route twice. It’s times like these that we truly appreciate the self-proclaimed and unilaterally unsubstantiated skills of our Run Leaders, who have sometimes mistakenly placed the well being of their group ahead of their own selfish needs and satisfaction. (Insert silent moment of pitiful gratitude and grudgingly sincere amazement at their collective ineptitude – but be careful not to overdo it as it tends to raise too many unanswerable questions.)
What with a new course, cement colored sidewalk chalking, temporary blinding headlights, monstrously large sounding barking dogs that seem to be originating from all directions at once, major thoroughfares to cross, new curbs and hidden cracks to stumble over, distorted street signs that were possibly in their youth oriented in the correct directions, you will want to get there early and establish your position before the enormous crowds appear. There are already rumors that pre-run stakeouts with all-nighters will be elbowing for pole positions when the doors open at 5:45 AM’ish. Fortunately we are starting once again from the Fairgrounds near 21st and Louisville (Southwest corner of the Fairgrounds by the historic train engine), so there should be ample camping grounds available.
Remember that if you choose to relinquish control of your route destiny to someone who portrays an outward appearance of calm and self assuredness, a cautionary “trust but verify” approach may serve you well. Also, for the over 40 group (means those in their prime), it might be helpful to stash a few reading specs strategically along the route, but only if you can remember where you left them.