Oklahoma City Gym Just for Runners

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*Courtesy of OKGazette.com Photo courtesy of Higher Ground

The Zach Morton logged hundreds of miles of runs while deployed more than 7,000 miles away from home when the idea for a business based on his love for running began.

“I wasn’t going to be good enough to compete, and I didn’t want to sell shoes,” he said. “So me and my buddy just kept saying, ‘What could we do?’”

While in Iraq with the U.S. Navy SEAL team, Morton ran 660 miles over a six-month period and he and his friend developed the concept of a gym just for runners.

For Runners, By Runners

Higher Ground Running, Oklahoma City’s first running gym that caters to beginner runners and serious athletes focused on shaving seconds off their best times, is the fruition of more than a decade of dreaming.

The gym opened in October at 9644 N. May Ave. Morton and his team of fellow running enthusiasts, which includes past winners of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, NCAA athletes and coaches, spent more than a year preparing to open the business. Morton and his family moved here after more than 15 years away specifically to focus on the gym. Morton and his team visited similar running facilities in New York and California. They networked via friends and through social media, offering free introductory classes to get their name and concept out into the running community.

Unlike all-purpose gyms, Higher Ground is built for runners. The facility features an outdoor track, a weight room and Woodway 4Front treadmills, which Morton described as “the Bentley of treadmills.”

“If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right,” Morton said, explaining that the high-end treadmills have flat surfaces that minimize accidents caused by fast-moving belts and closely mimic outdoor trail running.

Much like a spin class helps cyclists train and stay engaged with upbeat music, varying intensities and intervals, Higher Ground’s running group exercise classes are more intense and entertaining than a row of runners robotically jogging on treadmills. Some classes, such as The Hills, offer extreme resistance variations much like a run up and down hills while The Flatlands is less intense. Each participant runs at a pace set by the coaches and based on their level and goals.

Making Goals Happen

“The classes are a lot of fun, but they put the hurt on you,” said Shar El-Assi, who joined the gym when it opened after attending introductory running classes with the group at Bishop McGuinness High School’s track.

“The reason why I chose them is that they show they really care about you and your results. They individualized a plan for me. They motivate you. They actually want you to get better.”

El-Assi, a 45-year-old mental health care worker, ran track at his small high school in western Oklahoma and was part of the cross-country team at Oklahoma State University. In the last two years, he started running again to lose weight.

When he trained on his own, he lost 42 pounds and finished the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 4 hours and 38 minutes. After taking speed classes at Higher Ground, he shaved 44 minutes off his time. At this year’s marathon in April, he hopes to finish in 3 hours and 40 minutes.

“I think I’ll get there with them,” he said. “I think that anybody who tells you that they love running — they’re lying to you. I don’t like running; I like how I feel when I’m done.”

Other runners at Higher Ground are also improving — two have cut their times down to qualify for The Boston Marathon. Morton said he’s also reaching his goal and helping other runners get better.

The gym offers monthly memberships starting at $100, drop-in classes, personal coaching and marathon and half-marathon training.

5 Best Adventure Races Near Oklahoma

Hey Oklahomans! It’s now May and marathon month is over. Are you finding yourself wondering “what next” and looking for something your next big running adventure? If that so, Run Oklahoma has you covered. We’ve gathered a list of adventure races in Oklahoma and surrounding states to get you through the rest of the year.



The Mowdy Ranch Run 5K/ 10K/ 50K/ Half Marathon/ Marathon Trail Run11406572_1631335827077919_4948260736758101314_n

Where: Coalgate, Oklahoma
When: Saturday, June 11th 2016
Registration: Now Open
Difficulty: Moderate – tripping hazards (rocks, roots, stumps, and horses).
Camp out the night before the race.
Runners will navigate well marked trails up the rocky hills and down into the heavily wooded creek bottoms. The most of the wild horses will be moved to adjacent pastures but some of the horses are reluctant to move and will be on the race course. All of the horses will be visible to the runners so bring your camera. Proceeds of the event are dedicated to preserving the remarkable mustang. Also, there is plenty of free parking and camping spots available.

Spa Running Festival Half Marathon/ 10K/ 5K/ and Sprint

Where: Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
When: November 19, 2016
Participants: Capped at 250 runners for ½ marathon
Registration: Now Open
Difficulty: Difficult – goes to the Summit of West Mountain, down the mountain and back up again.
Highlighted by Runner’s World in 2015 as a bucket list event in the “Top 10 Races In or Near a National Park”, the Spa Running Festival is a family-friendly event that has a race for everyone ….. kids, walkers, beginners to elite runners and those that like a challenge! The half marathon is considered a challenge because you get to run West Mountain and to the top of the Summit twice! Are You Up To The Challenge?


Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon/ 5K/ and Mile Walk

santa fe thunder
Where: Santa Fe, New Mexico
When: Sunday September 18, 2016
Registration: Now Open
Difficulty: Easy – uphill for the first 2 miles then downhill for the remaining 11 miles.

Starting in the heart of Santa Fe at historic Fort Marcy, the point-to-point course follows the Old Taos Highway, finishing at the magnificent Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in the Pueblo of Pojoaque. The USATF-certified course features spectacular views of the Sangra de Cristo and Jemez mountains while dropping into the colorful Rio Grande Valley. The race boasts African drummers at the start and live music along the course, runners pass by the world-famous Santa Fe Opera, the Tesuque Village Market, Camel Rock and the Tesuque Pueblo on the way to Pojoaque.

Plano Balloon Festival 1K/ 5K/ Half Marathon/ and Half Marathon Relay

Where: Plano, TX
When: September 24th and 25th, 2016
Registration: Now Open
Difficulty: Easy

With a race distance for all running levels you can enjoy a run through remarkable hot air balloons. And if you feel up to the adventure, take a hot air balloon ride after your race. All participants receive two tickets to the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival plus parking on race day.

Hospital Hill Half Marathon/ 10K/ 5Khospital hill run

Where: Kansas City, Kansas
When: Saturday, June 3rd and 4th, 2016
Registration: Now Open
Difficulty: Moderate

The oldest race in Kansas City now in its 41st year. The half marathon covers hilly but scenic terrain from Crown Center to the Plaza and Brookside areas. People enjoy this race because of the challenge of heat, hills, and humidity. A great way to explore a city and race with some speedy folks.

Potty Talk and a Mixed Bag of Emotions at #OKCMarathon

Last fall I ran in the Route 66 Half Marathon and the introvert in me really enjoyed listening to the funny conversations other runners were having around me. The Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon was no different and many of the conversations were dominated with potty talk.


That’s the beauty of runners; if you run long enough you lose your inhibition and have no problem talking about your bathroom business. For much of the first 6 miles I heard conversations like these.

“I told him to use that first porta-potty back there. But did he listen? No! Now he has to wait in a line”

“Dude, I keep farting. Never trust a fart”

“My stomach hurts so bad. I feel like I’m going to poop my pants”

“You should have used the bathroom when you had the chance”

But beyond bathroom news, there was a lot of love and genuine care on the course. I saw several couples holding hands, many people running with “In Memory of…” bibs on their backs, spectators thanking the runners, runners thanking the spectators, and lots of candy, beer, liquor, popsicles, donuts, bacon, and sausage being handed out along the course.

My family even came out to cheer me on. They weren’t planning to come out to the course so it was a great surprise to find my adorable husband jumping up and down at mile 10 to get my attention. I got two hugs from my girls and it was felt amazing to have them there supporting me. God bless my oldest daughter who thinks that because I bring home a medal that I won the race. It’s beyond flattering she thinks so highly of me and believes it’s possible for me to win these races. Her faith in me means more than all of the racing medals. I hope she has the same confidence in herself throughout her life.


Although there was a lot of chatter at the beginning of the race, by mile 11 when exhaustion had begun to set in, a hush had taken hold of many runners. For a moment we were almost a harmonious drumming of heaving breathing and rubber soles scuffing the pavement. All thankful to be in misery together but eager for the finish line.

For me, the race was a mixed bag of emotions. It was exhilarating to participate in a race with such strong community ties. Also, this event was kind of a celebration of the running community I’ve become a part of over the past year. As an introvert I have a difficult time making new friends but through Oiselle and running I have met so many amazing women. I’m extremely proud to call these women my friends. It was great to have the ladies that I have spent so many early morning miles with there to cheered me on and I was able to cheer them on as well. Despite all the great things about the Oklahoma City Memorial half marathon, running continues to elude me. I have hit a plateau with my speed and it’s maddening. I try different racing strategies and training plans but I can’t seem to break into a 2:10 half marathon. Despite a feeling of disappointment of my overall performance, I am not defeated. I came home Sunday hungry for another race.


Right now I have no races planned for the remainder of the year but need to figure out a plan soon. I’m deliberating between spending the summer on shorter distances, weight training and speed work or just biting the bullet and training for a full marathon Any advice?

When Training Doesn’t Go as Planned – 2016 Spring Race Training

Spring Race Training – Week Four

So, yeah my spring race training isn’t going so well. I’ve registered for two half marathons this spring and  I’m four weeks into my training but it hasn’t been going well.



  1. Injury – After incorporating body weight exercises (yoga and pilates) into my training plan and trying a new brand of running shoes, a nagging pain in the ball of my foot and arch has develop. I’ve been having trouble running. and even walking without pain. It feels like my foot is splitting in two. These nagging, soft tissue injuries can be difficult because it’s not always easy to know what caused it, what the exact issue is, or how to treat it. But I’m sticking to the normal routine of icing, massaging, taping, and repeating it daily. But ultimately my mileage has suffered from not being able to run as many miles as I normally would due to pain and just trying to rest and heal my foot.
  2. Poor nutrition – I’ve allowed myself to get off track with my nutrition. I began to slip off the wagon back around the holidays, and New Years. I would indulge and tell myself that once the New Year started I would cut out the junk food I’d been eating. But then it was my anniversary and we had to celebrate with an indulgent dinner and dessert. Then it was a long run and I deserved a big breakfast, then it became a convenient option to just grab a quick bite for dinner. Because I’ve been eating a lot of junk food lately, I’ve noticed a lack of energy during my runs. I feel sluggish and my joints feel stiff and swollen.
  3. Schedule – I’m not sure if it’s the cross training that I’ve chosen for this round of training, if it’s the cold weather, or that my running routes are routine and boring but I haven’t been able to stick to my training plan very well. Probably another part of the issue is that there has been a major change to my work schedule and I’m just trying to find the rhythm of my new routine and just haven’t gotten there yet.

Things aren’t really working out the way I had planned. But that doesn’t mean my spring race season is going to be a wash. I’m really not yet ready to give up on the pace goals I have for the spring. So instead of giving up I’m going to give a plan/schedule mix up a try.  My goals are important to me and I’ve come a long way over the past two years. The song on repeat in my head is Otis Redding’s “Dreams to Remember”.  I know it’s about something completely different than achieving running goals but I love Otis Redding and that line “I’ve got dreams, dreams to remember” is the one that helps me block out all the static and refocus on the goals I’ve set for myself and how important they are to me.

Even though I do have these dreams and goals for my running, I often have to remind myself of the fact that I run for FUN. I don’t get paid to do this. It’s not my full time job. I do it because I love it. Yes, I have goals to that will take a lot of hard work to accomplish but none of them mean a damn if I’m miserable the whole time.

  1. Have Fun – Keeping true to the fact that I run for fun, for fitness, and for a stress reliever. It does more harm than good to be hard on myself after I flop a workout, miss a workout, or don’t hit my mileage goal for the week. I’m doing the best I can and so I need to just have fun with it. Running in different locations to get some different scenery and mixing up my workouts a bit more will help with this.
  2. Sub 2:00 Half Marathon – I have 12 minutes to shave off of my total time but I’ll keep chipping away at it with each race I run.
  3. Strength Train – Based on the past four weeks I have found myself really missing weight training. So I”m going to incorporate that back into my training schedule. Plus, strength training can help me get faster and build other muscle groups so to prevent future injuries.
  4. Improve Nutrition – Meal planning and prep starts back up again this weekend. I may post more about my food here on the blog to help keep me accountable.
  5. Run more with others – I think participating more in group runs will really help me a lot with many of my goals. It will definitely be more fun, it will help me with my speed to run with faster runners and keep me motivated during the winter months that I’m training for the spring half marathons. So it’s basically just an all-around good decision.

In another four weeks I hope to have much better news to report on my training after making these changes.

Funny Things #HeardonRT66 and a New Personal Record

I remember my first half marathon. I ran it in 2009 as a challenge to myself to see if I could do it. I didn’t have kids at the time and I don’t know what in the heck I was doing with my free time but I didn’t stick to my training plan or cross training and ended up with multiple injuries. I hobbled my way through that race and loathed the entire experience. I checked it off my bucket list and didn’t really think about running another half marathon until this year.

2015 started with me making a promise to myself to get my physical and emotional health back on track. After two kids and a serious bout of postpartum depression, I still felt like a stranger in my own body. I didn’t recognize the spare tire around my mushy mid section and was riddled with anxiety. In January, I decided to get in shape. Like, really get in shape. So I decided to sign up for the Route 66 Half Marathon. I would give myself plenty of time to train and incorporate strength training and cross training to be sure to prevent injuries this time. Eleven months later, I found myself at the start line of the Route 66 Half Marathon feeling mentally and physically healthy, strong, and injury free.

Photo Cred: Rt 66

This was the first time I had ever run the Route 66 Half Marathon and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I had been warned about the hills and I’m glad I was. I had prepared and trained for them. I repeated my mantra for 90% of the race. “Your quads were made for hills. Your strong legs can handle these hills.” And luckily, the hills made the course more interesting. It was more like an interval run rather than a flat, pounding tempo run. The only time the hills were a problem was at mile 12 when my legs were shredded, my knee was aching, and my feet were cramped up (I think I tied my shoelaces too tight and didn’t know it cause my feet were frozen at the start line).

Photo Cred: RT 66

I had effectively trained for the hills. However, I wasn’t prepared for the ruckus of this particular race. There was crowd support basically the entire course. And I don’t mean just clapping and cowbells. I mean beer flinging, jello-shot having, loud music blaring dance parties along the course. There were live bands at some locations, cheerleaders at others. The city of Tulsa was seemingly completely taken over by this race, its participants, and its supporters.
So I disconnected. I took my earphones out, and put my phone away. I didn’t listen to any music. I didn’t have the voice of the Strava lady telling me my pace and distance. I didn’t need any of that. I wasn’t pushing for a pace. I was running by how I felt and enjoying the fun along the course; talking to other runners, high-fiving supporters. It was exactly what I needed. On that race, I was just running for the fun of it. Celebrating the reasons I signed up for the race in the first place; to be happy and healthy. And I couldn’t believe it. I crossed the finish line and had a new personal record. I had beat my test run half marathon time earlier this year by about 20 seconds. 

Because I didn’t have my headphones in, I eaves dropped on many conversations. Some of the conversations were mundane, some sad, some funny, some disgusting (there is no shame about bodily functions for runners). Here are a few of the gems I heard along the course.

“What do you think the dog is doing right now? He’s either sleeping or licking himself.”
I hope the dog was sleeping but as luck would have it he was probably licking himself.

“Hey handsome! You’re cute! Can I run with you for a little while?”
Who knew picking up a date during a race could be so easy.

“Why? Why do I do this to myself. Never again. Never again.”
Okay, this quote was from me at mile 8 and 9. It never fails. Mile 8 is where I break down. It’s my kryptonite.

“You know that porta-potty back there? Somebody pooped all over the floor.”
This guy kept talking but I couldn’t really hear him and I was too busy looking for poop on the bottom of his shoes.

Have you heard any funny, crazy, surprising things on the race course before?

Wow, what a difference from my first half marathon several years ago. I had so much fun at the Route 66 Half Marathon and am ready to sign up for next year. But that’s an entire year away and I’ve got the bug. I’m fully addicted to this half marathon thing. So what’s next? Maybe Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Dallas?

Runner Like You – Jennifer Hilger

Last month’s blog post that highlighted “Runner LIke You”, Becky Craig was a great success! There are many amazing folks here in Oklahoma that make running and fitness a priority. It’s extremely rewarding to know that others, like me, enjoy learning more about these dedicated runners.  In addition, it’s an honor to highlight a few of those runners and share their stories and contributions to running communities around Oklahoma. I’m ecstatic to introduce you to a runner that makes marathons appear to be a party. Her enthusiasm and flare for the sport make you want to join her on long runs or, at the very least, cheer her along from her Instagram feed. Jen is an Arts education advocate, a member of Red Coyote Racing as well as Oiselle Volée. She is also a Nuunbassador and last but not least, Dopey certified (completing the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon within pacing requirements at runDisney). Jen was nice enough to answer a few questions about how she got started and what her most recent marathon meant to her.

Jen running in the NYC Marathon
Jen running in the NYC Marathon


1. Why did you first start running?

Basically because I couldn’t run! I used to be a band director and as a part of summer band the students ran to help build endurance to perform a 7+ minute marching show. I wouldn’t ever ask a student to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself, and my first couple years of teaching I struggled to keep up with ANY of the kids. So, during spring break in 2010, I started the couch-to-5k running program in hopes that I could somewhat keep up with the students during summer band. A friend said I should sign-up for a 5k since I was doing the training. I had no idea what a 5k was or that races were even a thing. I found one to run, and have been hooked ever since!

2. You just finished the NYC Marathon. To gain entry you completed fundraising for Team for Kids. Can you tell us about the timeline for fundraising and your experience for running for a charity?

I didn’t sign-up to be a charity runner until early March, so I had from March until October 1st to raise my commitment of $2,620. Registration to be a charity runner for 2016 is already open so participants could potentially have almost a year to raise the funds. I registered at the same time as another running buddy here in OKC with the commitment that we would help each other with training and fundraising. We were very fortunate to have so many people step in to help us fundraise! One of our running buddies typically brings a crockpot meal for after our Thursday social runs for everyone to enjoy. She hasn’t ever asked for compensation, but people have often tried to give her money since she essentially made their dinner! After we started fundraising, she set up a jar to collect donations towards our efforts!

We also have another friend that hosts do-it-yourself paint parties. She helped us host “Make your own medal hanger” parties to help us with our fundraising. People had a fun night with friends, made something for their race bling, ate a good dinner, and we were able to raise a lot of money thanks to the generosity of our friend only charging for the materials! (Special shout-out to PhotoVille for leading the parties, and Café Icon for donating 10% of food profits to our fundraisers!) I was lucky enough to reach my fundraising goal on my birthday in August thanks to the generosity of everyone that donated! My training took on a whole new meaning . . . people gave their money to an organization on my behalf, I had to get out there and train! (For those times I might have rather stay in bed!)

It’s hard for me to put my experience of running for a charity into words. For big races like the NYC Marathon, there are so many charities to chose from. I knew that Team for Kids was a huge charity with the New York Road Runners and that the “perks” were awesome, but I researched many organizations before committing because I wanted this to be truly meaningful to my heart. (Note: fundraising for ANY charity is incredible! I think to successfully fundraise that you need to find an organization that pulls at YOUR heartstrings. Potential donors want to know your heart is 100% in with the cause.)

Team for Kids spoke to me from the first moment I heard of the organization, and after researching other causes; I knew Team for Kids was the perfect place for me! Even though Team for Kids is based in NYC, money raised goes to school programs all around the country. TFK did host weekly runs in NYC for the locals (or if you were traveling in the area you could stop in!), and they were great about posting accountability posts and weekly emails for those of us that couldn’t join the fun in person.

Jen Hilger and Meb Keflezighi
Jen met with Olympic silver Medalist, Boston Marathon Winner, and Team for Kids ambassador Meb Keflezighi at the 2016 NYC Marathon.

Fast forward to race week . . . the NYC Marathon has a formal opening ceremony on the Friday before the race. It is basically a celebration and a parade of all nations represented. Team for Kids gets to start the parade since they are the biggest charity partner with the race. I was lucky to get a spot in the parade! I got to meet kids that directly benefitted from my fundraising efforts. WOW! (I also got to meet Meb who is a Team for Kids ambassador!) On Saturday morning, TFK hosted a breakfast for all fundraisers. Again, we got to meet more kids and we were able to visit with some of their parents also. By the end of the breakfast, my heart was completely full. I started training with a specific finishing time and was determined to do it, but after the full experience of fundraising, I honestly just felt completely lucky to get to run the NYC Marathon for Team for Kids!


The fundraising experience was so fulfilling that I know that’s my path for future races. If I ever get a qualifying time for certain major races, awesome. . . but I will be running them for charity!

3. You have run over a dozen marathons and about 20 half marathons. Each of these races takes a lot of time for training. How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

Wow, this question has so many answers! Sometimes a hot cup of coffee or a cold popsicle waiting at home motivates me to just go get it done. Other times I just remember my goals and how bad a half marathon or marathon will hurt if I don’t properly train. I’m a terrible liar, so knowing my friends can ask me at any time how my training is going also provides motivation. I would be embarrassed if I was constantly lazy during a time of training! My husband is great at keeping me motivated. I have my conscience, but I also have his voice to remind me of my goals, and sometimes our schedules line up for him to run with me! In the spring I am a training coach for Red Coyote Running & Fitness, so I have built-in accountability! I need to always be on my A game to help those in the training program. The participants always inspire me and make running so much fun! (Even in the dark, cold, wind, snow, etc…) As I mentioned earlier, training for NYC took on a whole new meaning for me. All of my training miles had so much value, whether I felt like running or not. I was very focused on achieving my goal, and making Team for Kids proud to have me as one of their runners.

4. Because you have run in so many races, what are the top three “little things” you do to prevent injury?

Running more frequently while gradually building miles. (To prevent injury…wait, what?) Running 4-5 times a week has helped my body get used to running frequently, and it’s still possible to do so while gradually building miles. When I first started training for long-distance races I was lucky to get in three runs/week, and I wondered why I hurt so much after long runs. Now, I love running a 100+ mile month with my longest run only being 10 miles! Or 36 mile weeks with my longest run only being 14 miles.
Listen to my body! If something hurts, I try to not ignore it! It can usually be a simple stretching solution, or maybe I slept in a weird way one night. Or maybe it’s new shoe time. . . I mean, isn’t it always new shoe time?!
Sleep! It’s easy to remember that you have to get to bed early the night before a long run, but we can sometimes neglect sleep throughout the week. It’s obviously difficult for most adults to nap on a consistent basis, so getting to bed at a decent time is very important every night of the week for successful training.

5. What’s next, racewise?

Jen and her husband finishing a runDisney event as newlyweds.
Jen and her husband finishing a runDisney event as newlyweds.

My next big race weekend will be the RunDisney Star Wars Rebel Challenge (10k + Half Marathon) + 5k over three days! My husband and I are running these races together as a part of our celebration of our first wedding anniversary!

6. If you could deliver one message to fellow runners like you, what would it be?

Smile! (And sparkle!) My good friend Layla always reminds me before a big race to SMILE! Whether I am running a personal best or personal worst, I am always thankful for the experience. Smiling doesn’t exert extra energy, and makes everyone feel better. I try to take a selfie after every run to remind myself that I did it, and still smiled at the end no matter the quality of the run.

Sparkle! Whether that means literally, like with a sparkle skirt, or just find your own sparkle! Don’t be afraid to be yourself! I think one really unique aspect about running is that it attracts all types of people. There is no reason to fit in a mold in running, so why try? If you want to run races in tutus, do it! If you want to repeat the same races over and over, do it. Running is such a freeing experience, no sense in not being yourself!


Lightning Round:

Compression Socks: Yes or no?

Depends on the situation. I rarely wear them for races anymore, but frequently use them for recovery!

Running Solo or with a group?

NYC Marathon or runDisney?
There is no short answer on this one, ha!! Both are very special to me for different reasons, and I’m not sure I could chose!

HITS Running Festival Recap – OKC

It’s been six long years since my last half marathon. That race was quite a humbling experience filled with IT Band issues and foot injuries. I was new to long distance running and thought the only training I needed to do was to run and still ate whatever I wanted. Since then I have moved to a different state, changed jobs, had four surgeries, and two kids. My biggest take away from my first half marathon and subsequent life changes is that taking good care of myself goes a long way in my training. So over the past few months, in addition to my runs I incorporated clean eating principles and strength training using The 21 Day Fix. The half marathon I ran this weekend was so vastly different than my last. I wasn’t plagued with injuries, I felt strong, and had a bond with the local running community. This was also my first race in my Oiselle singlet. It felt amazing getting to rock that thing, FINALLY! Considering I got a PR, this race gave me loads of confidence to continue training and striving towards my fitness and running goals.

This past weekend I ran in the HITS Running Festival in downtown Oklahoma City. I was hemming and hawing for months about whether or not to sign up. So the day before the scheduled event, I had the brilliant idea that it could serve as a good dress rehearsal for the upcoming Route 66 Half Marathon and decided to go ahead and sign up. Ultimately, I’m so glad I did. I have so many positives comments on this race.

  • Field Size – The number of runners was drastically lower than events like OKC Memorial or Route 66. So the start line wasn’t crowded. I was able to arrive 30 minutes before the start, get a nearby parking spot, and had plenty of room to warm up. 
  • A Distance for Everyone – They really offered every distance from Marathon to 10K to 1 mile fun runs. I saw a lot of groups and families (mine included) with members each participating in races of various distances. Families could watch and cheer each other on throughout the morning because each race had a staggered star time. For example, the half started at 7am and I was done in time to see my husband start his 5K race at 10am.
  • The Course – Each race followed a flat and fast course along the manicured River Trails of the Oklahoma River. The flat course was appreciated. Also, not having to fight cars and traffic was great as well.
  • Refreshment on the Course – Each water aid table along the course was stocked full of water, gatorade, oranges, bananas, and mini candy bars. A varied and delicious selection.
  • Ballpark – Each race FINISHED inside Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. This was sooo much fun. It made it nice for spectators because they could lounge in the stands and watch for friends and family to enter the stadium and cross the finish line. For the runners, you can feel like a super star athlete when seeng yourself on the jumbotron in the stadium and the soft and well manicured track feels so good on tired feet at the end of a long race. 
  • Treats After the Race – Lots and lots of donuts, bananas, oranges, grapes, bagels, coffee, and more. Super good snacks. I had a great time just snacking on treats and hanging in the stadium while waiting for friends and family to race.

Every race has some downsides and this one had only a few.

  • Smell – holy smokes y’all. You may be running on a well manicured path along the river but when you run by the stockyards the smell gets pretty rancid. It was a cool, windy morning and the smell was still pretty bad. And because it’s an out and back loop race you have to hit that smell a second time on your way back. phew!
  • Confusion at Starting Line – When you were finishing your race you basically crossed back over where the starting line to get into the stadium to finish your race. This was confusing for some marathon and half marathon runners finishing their race while the 5K, 10K, and mile racers were starting their races.
  • Not Enough Finisher Medals – They had many runners register last minute (like me) and therefore didn’t have enough finisher medals for everyone. It’s a bummer but it happens. They are ordering more and will be mailing them out to folks though.

In speaking with several other runners from the event, there seemed to be a consensus between our opinion of the race and how it was organized. Ultimately, it was a great race that was executed well. I would run this race again and encourage others to check it out next fall.

becky craig st george marathon

Runner Like You – Becky Craig

Running can be intimidating, especially running long distance races like a marathon or half marathon. But it doesn’t take a super human to accomplish these fetes. Regular people like you and me prove time and again that persistence and dedication can take you pretty far in training and running a race. Becky Craig embodies all of this. She is a mother, works a full time job, creates delicious confectionary treats at Sugar Shenanigans, and still finds time to train and run in some pretty prestigious races like her most recent journey to St. Georges Marathon. Becky is a fellow Oiselle Voilee runners and has graciously agreed to be the first spotlight in the new Runner Like You series. Each month Run Oklahoma highlights runners like you and me that find time to dedicate to this sport that intrigues, mystifies, and at times eludes each of us.

Without further ado, I introduce a Runner Like You, Becky Craig.

RO: When did you start running?becky craig st george marathon

BC: I had tried to run a few 5ks in my early 30s but it wasn’t until I turned 35 and decided to sign up to train for my first sprint tri that I actually started running regularly. Although it took probably a year before I had any kind of consistency.

RO: Do you remember the first moment you felt “like a runner”?

BC: Maybe when I got my first Garmin. It was a Christmas gift after I ran my first half in Tulsa at the Route 66 in 2010. I remember thinking, now I have this new watch, guess that means I have to start running.

RO: You just finished the St. George Marathon. That particular race was included in Runner’s World 10 Most Scenic Marathons and was voted in the Top 20 Marathons in the USA. Can you share about your experience running in this race?

BC: St. George was definitely beautiful, but in my opinion, the course is no joke. Sure they say it’s downhill, but there are some serious uphill spots and downhill isn’t always easy I had a great race for 17 miles, I felt good and like I was on track to run a good race. After that, sharp pain in my leg prevented me from running at all. It was a long 9 miles to the finish line.

RO: What’s next, racewise?

BC: Well, I have an MRI scheduled for Monday afternoon and I am currently limping around in a boot. I am hoping it’s not a tibial stress fracture, but I will have to wait until next week to find out what’s going on. I have plans to run the half at the Route 66, I have done it every year since 2010, but I will have to see what my doctor says.

RO: What’s the coolest place you’ve ever run?

BC: The coolest race I have ever done is the Ragnar Colorado. Probably the hardest running I have had to do, mostly on account of the whole lack of oxygen, but this was the most fun race I’ve ever done. Driving around in a van with five other runners in the middle of the night is seriously fun.

RO: If you could deliver one message to fellow runners like you, what would it be?

BC: Everyone has bad days, we just have to keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, because sometimes it will take a long time.

Lightning Round:

Running with music: Yes or no?

Music only for races when I know I will be alone. Otherwise I prefer to run with friends and talk. Trust me, I can talk a lot during a six mile run.

• Kara or Shalane?


• NYC Marathon or Boston Marathon?

NYC! I prefer a race that I could actually run some day! Lol.

Run Less Run Faster – Book Review

School is about to start and cooler temperatures are just around the corner. Those anticipated cooler temps make great weather for marathon and half marathon training.

The last half marathon I ran was about six years ago. When I was training for that particular race I suffered a few injuries and was afraid I would never be able to run more than a mile without pain again. Part of the reason for my injury was running too much and running without a plan. I didn’t know anything about tempo runs or interval training. I just ran as long as I could and as often as I could.

Over the past few years I’ve been reading much more about training plans and focusing on different cross training exercises. I’ve personally seen a substantial benefit to my running by building a better cardiovascular base with cross training such as cycling, rowing, and swimming.

RLRF 2012 webHowever, the book that has been the most influential to my running and the one I will be using to train for the Route 66 Half Marathon is Run Less Run Faster from Runner’s World. The initial chapters of the book provide a base knowledge of their recommended 3-run-a-week training program. The rest of the book includes training programs for many distances (5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, and Marathon) as well as a Boston qualifier plan. The book also includes recommended stretches and strength training.

Books about running and training plans themselves will always have supporters and naysayers. It seems that everywhere you turn there is an expert ready to oppose one plan because they have the “best” or “right” training plan. However, as an amateur runner, my humble opinion is that sometimes you have to do the best with what you have. Furthermore, a training plan is just that. A plan. Ultimately, I will listen to my body while training for my next half marathon but will use this book for a guideline to prepare myself for that race.

rlrf2The benefits for me, with regards to this book, are that it’s easy to understand (full disclosure, I didn’t understand interval runs such as “12 x 400 with 400 RI” until I read this book) and even easier to follow. The 3-run-a -week offers plenty of flexibility for me to not overload my demanding work and family schedule.

Are you planning to run a fall marathon or half marathon? Which training plan are you using?