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Oklahoma’s Canadian River Run Adventure Report

Endurance Athletes – Where experiences are limited only by your imagination.

Last month Oklahoma ultra athletes, Rex Pace, Russell Allison, and Eddie Spencer decided to use their fitness for a 20-ish mile point-to-point adventure on the nearly water-free Canadian River bottom from Norman to Purcell, Oklahoma.

From dream to reality - Russell, Eddie, and Rex at the bridge in Purcell, OK

Rex shared a report. Here is their experience.


Record breaking heat in Oklahoma along with little to no rainfall this summer set up perfect conditions for our first ever South Candian River Run.

Our good friend and veteran ultrarunner, Russell Allison, had been scheming this run for years, but never got around to doing it due to the time constraints of a busy business and family life, or water levels that were too high, or maybe because he was too busy doing things like running across the United States or becoming Oklahoma’s first Leadman among many other accomplishments (blah, blah, blah).

Another good friend Eddie Spencer (Crazy Eddie), an experienced cyclist and ultrarunner himself, had been chomping at the bit since the first time Russell mentioned it.  I’m fortunate to run with guys who are up for any adventure at anytime and I couldn’t wait to take on this one. So when the high temperatures suddenly dropped into the low 80’s this August, the time was right to make this thing happen and the three of us did it!

Russell,  Eddie and myself are all Norman residents and are very familiar with all of the local trails and the river itself.  The Canadian River is well known by locals as a great area to explore for endless miles on ATV’s and Jeeps, but as far as we know, we are the first to actually run the section of it from Norman, OK to Purcell, OK.

Our run covered approximately 20 miles of picturesque Oklahoma countryside with tons of wildlife, including two bald eagles we witnessed in flight, and beautiful scenery around every bend.

Our journey started right out of Eddie’s front door through his neighborhood park that butts up against the woods along the banks of the South Canadian river just before it flows under I-35.  I personally was going to see how long I could keep my feet dry, but about 2.1 seconds after hitting the river bed we were taking our first plunge.  Russell was keeping up with the number of water crossings we made, but gave up after a dozen or more in the first few miles.  We were already trudging through deep sand, cold water and dodging swarms of flying insects; we were having a blast.

The day before our run Eddie ventured through Noble, OK down a long country road that led almost right to the river. From what Eddie says this was an adventure in itself.  I believe the local residents are proud and protective of their neck of the woods down there to say the least!  But after a brief “encounter” the unique couple that lives out on this section of the river warmed up to Eddie, as everyone does, and allowed him to stash our two gallons of water on the river for our one and only “aid station” .

"Aid station"

As we closed in on this section of the river during our run, Eddie was able to pinpoint the exact location of the water by remembering a few bushes, driftwood and sand piles as landmarks.  He was really excited that he was able to find the stashed drinking water so quickly given the limited and obscure landmarks he noted the day before…Russell and I were quick to point out the huge powerlines that ran right over us might have been a decent landmark as well!!  He kind of missed that the day before.

We were about 12 miles into it and left feeling great and surprised at how quickly we were traversing the river bed.  Oh, and there’s still an unopened gallon of water hidden for next time!

This is a pic of the railroad trestle the Heartland Flyer passes over as it transports travelers between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, TX.

Railroad trestle in the distance

As I mentioned earlier we saw plenty of wildlife but this less than eager beaver is the only wildlife pic I got.

Just before we saw the two eagles flying overhead, Russell got word that his new business, Andy Alligator’s Water Park in Norman, had just been approved to begin with construction.  Very cool moment.  And what a way to celebrate!

We were making great progress still dodging the occasional swarm of insects and a snake or two, talking about urban legend quick sand pits and before we knew it we had made it to our destination point, the bridge that crosses the river at Purcell, in a very surprising 3 hours and 45 minutes!

We had planned on anywhere from 4-6 hours due to the uncertainty of the terrain and lack of a real trail.  We made good time and felt great. No falls, injuries, beaver attacks, snake bites, mountain lion mallings, eagle clawings, sasquatch sightings, banjos playing in the background or anything!

Here we are under the bridge in Purcell admiring the “artwork”.

We made our way up out of the river, hopped over the train on the tracks, ran right into downtown Purcell and found us some much needed homecookin’ at the Boomerang Grill.

Eddie and Russell making their way to the grub at the Boomerang.

Russell’s wife and mother-in-law were nice enough to make the trek south down I-35 to Purcell to give as a lift back home.  Thanks Robbie and Charletta!

I would definitely put this up there in the top 10 of my most memorable runs. We had a blast and can’t wait to do it again or maybe farther or maybe a new section, multi-day??  Who knows!  Whatever the trail brings us we will take.  If anyone is interested in doing this run as well let me know. We’re always ready for another adventure.

Special thanks to Rex for sharing this TALON running adventure with us.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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