He’s finished his first race for governor, but Kevin Stitt is still running.
In anticipation of his participation in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, Stitt joined me for a 30-minute training run through Gathering Place and Tulsa RiverParks Friday.
It was a perfect day for a run in the park, and Stitt is a good training companion — not too fast, not too slow and he came with a state trooper in case anyone needed CPR.
Stitt, 46, is self-deprecating on the running trail, but he has decent athletic credentials. He played high school football, finished an Olympic-standard triathalon in his 30s and ran the Tulsa Run in 1:48 in 2012.
Hobie Higgins, the governor’s friend since college and “Chief Fun Officer” for the Stitt-founded Gateway Mortgage Group, was one of our running companions Friday. He also went along with Stitt on that triathlon. He reports that the governor has a habit of poor-mouthing his athletic abilities until the starting gun goes off, when you see him disappearing over the horizon.
In his State of the State speech, Stitt announced that he would be part of a five-person relay team in the Oklahoma City marathon on April 28. Any relay team that beats the governor’s squad wins a “I Beat the Governor” T-shirt in the Governor’s Relay Challenge.
Running on the governor’s team will be Secretary of Digital Transformation David Ostrowe, Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur, Secretary of Public Safety Chip Keating and Tulsa businessman Corbin McGruire, a longtime friend and chairman of the Stitt campaign for governor.
To get ready for the race, Stitt has been trying to lace up his running shoes three times a week in Oklahoma City, but being governor sometimes gets in the way of being a runner.
There’s more than just physical fitness involved in the governor’s workouts.
As we stuggled up a hill near the end of our afternoon, he put it in a context of public policy. Oklahomans are too sedentary. That weakens our workforce and raises our health care costs.
Stitt says there’s a lot of moving pieces to the solution to the state’s health care issues, but promoting self-responsibility has to be part of it. Stitt says he has to model healthy wellness for all Oklahomans.
Stitt isn’t the first Oklahoma governor who wanted to reform a state that eats too much and moves too little, although the role of role model has been a bit uneven at times.
In 1993, I went on a blistering four-mile run through the streets of downtown Oklahoma City with then-Gov. David Walters at 5 a.m. It left me with wobbly legs, although I’d never admit that to Walters.
George Nigh, I’ve been told, used to swim laps in the old Governor’s Mansion swimming pool and liked an occasional game of tennis.
I once asked what Henry Bellmon did to stay in shape. “Farming” was the answer.
Mary Fallin worked out on a stepper when hip problems and an eventual replacement allowed it.
When you’re running with the governor on a sunny spring day, you attract attention. Stitt is a recognizable face. He waved to everyone going the opposite way, high-fived one delighted Gathering Place visitor and stopped for a picture with three Union elementary school teachers who had brought their classes to the park for a field trip.
We made it over the Midland Valley Trail’s one big hill in Gathering Place, passed through a playground filled with children and stopped at the Lodge. Stitt was headed to the showers and then back on the road to be governor for a few more hours.
Look for him in the streets of Oklahoma City on marathon day, and on the streets of Tulsa on a bicycle soon after that. His next adventure: Tulsa Tough.