NOV 2015 - RUNNING
Turkey Trotters Show Community Spirit
By Laura Clark
While Ben Franklin was disappointed that he failed in his bid to appoint the turkey as the official United States bird, in the long run the turkey came out way ahead of the eagle. Turkeys have proven hardy avians with talented publicists, turning their defeat into a victory by becoming the symbol of Thanksgiving, and taking credit for the most popular activity day on the national menu. It all began in 1863 with Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation, followed in 1896 by the Buffalo Turkey Trot, the oldest continuous road race in North America.
There is an everyman appeal to Turkey Trots. It goes beyond our inbred Puritan guilt that urges us to atone before indulgence and finds its heart in the flock mentality. For this one day we are a community, celebrating together for the sheer joy of it. Is it any wonder then that the events profiled below, cling to traditional courses, offer the usual side dishes and marshal donations for community welfare?
The most established table in our region is set by the 68th annual Troy Turkey Trot, featuring the customary 5K, 10K for big eaters, as well as the Grade School Mile, and Turkey Walk. With almost 8,000 runners, expect serious competition in the 10K as this serves as the USATF Adirondack 10K Championship and club team competition. The rest of us will be scratching for Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York canned good donations and preparing for the costume contest. This is more than a search mission for expired Halloween costumes as successful candidates will be judged on creativity, presentation and functionality, meaning you actually expect to run wearing your outfit.
To enhance the family emphasis, the Turkey Trot 5K, incidentally the 12th oldest road race in the nation, will be offering team competitions: mother/daughter or son, father/daughter or son, sister/sister, brother/brother, sister/brother and husband/wife. As turkeys prefer large family flocks, expect a wide variety of permutations, and some hefty debates over pairing choices. All races start from the Troy Atrium which also includes packet pick-up and last chance registration on Wednesday, 11/25 – no race day registration. Go to troyturkeytrot.com.
Weighing in at 34 years is Schenectady’s Cardiac Classic 5K road race, plus two free events, the two-mile Wellness Walk and one-mile Duck Pond Fun Run. This is a perfect alternative for turkeys wishing to avoid huge crowds, get their exercise over quickly, and get on with the main event of the day.
The route around Central Park features paved paths and surrounding neighborhood roadways, with the traditional circle around Duck Pond. The playground will keep kids and caregivers busy while they await their own fun run. Turkeys, being sometimes overweight, are susceptible to heart attacks and as such are particularly motivated to raise money for Ellis Medicine’s Wright Heart Center. Visit ellismedicine.org.
Twenty years ago the rural community of Arlington, Vt. began their celebration of the turkey trots of yore when bootie-clad turkeys were marched into market, lending particular meaning to the term “farm-to-market.” The Running of the Turkeys 5K Run/Walk is no flat and fast tour through city streets, but a beautiful and hilly farm country experience requiring a certain level of fitness and determination. In the same spirit, the walk is not a mere stroll through the park, but a serious effort attracting some race walkers who are guaranteed to pass the casual runners. Awards are presented in both runner and walker categories, a noteworthy departure from other area events. Race walkers must be committed – no waffling with Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method.
This is homemade community at its best, where members who bear goodies for the groaning buffet table, will be entered in a raffle for Batten Kill Valley Runners apparel. Pre-registered family flocks are rewarded for their commitment with a discounted group entry fee by 11/15, and those who prefer to save their cash for later celebrations can forego the pre-ordered long-sleeved T-shirt. This is the perfect city turkey/country turkey venue where turkeys of all ability levels can line up with a clear view of the start and can proceed without fear of ruffled feathers. Check out bkvr.net.
In a similar move, 14 years ago a flock of suburban cousins balked at carving yet another flight path to Troy and Schenectady. They longed for an event that would propel them to the menu a lot faster. Enter the annual Christopher Dailey Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk lifting off from the Saratoga Hilton in downtown Saratoga Springs, circling the hilly Skidmore campus, and concluding with a fast forward steep skid back onto the Broadway landing zone. The sense of community at this race is palatable as it honors sports-loving Chris Dailey who died unexpectedly at Thanksgiving time. Mom and Dad are the race directors, brother Brendan sings the Star Spangled Banner, and sister Laura Rose works registration and runs in the race.
Proceeds benefit the Christopher Dailey Foundation, which built a much-needed youth gym and has now supports a wide spectrum of youth sports activities. This year proceeds are targeted towards Double H Ranch’s adaptive ski program and a curtain for Christopher’s gymnasium to partition floor space. It seems as if the entire community either runs, walks or volunteers, eager to contribute to the future of their youth and support the Healthy Saratoga grassroots movement. In fact, the results list does not tell the entire story as many walkers decline to record their finishing time, letting their participation define their experience. My favorite part is the initial lineup where the usual pre-race instructions are overlooked, replaced by a non-denominational blessing by a St. Clements priest, and a touching rendition of the National Anthem, which deflect our focus from race goals to what really matters on this special day. Go to christopherdaileyfoundation.com.
Taking the ‘purpose over time’ concept one step further, the motto of the sixth annual OurTowne Bethlehem Turkey Trot 5K Fun Run/Walk, is “The only time that will matter is the good time that you’ll have.” That’s correct… no timing chips, no race results, just a good time celebrating with friends. According to race director John Guastella, “The focus is on giving back to those less fortunate in OUR community. For one day, it is not about a PR or winning a trophy.” Now a Bethlehem tradition, entire flocks walk and run together on the flat course, which tours the older neighborhoods of Delmar. Participants are requested to bring a canned good to help the Bethlehem food pantry overflow once more.
Dithering turkeys enjoy a special procrastination registration the day before. There’s also a Wednesday evening fireworks display – Tom Turkeys, who incidentally see in full color, especially appreciate this opportunity to display their feathers. On the day, however, they encourage all to come in costume to avoid an untimely demise. Visit ourtownebethlehem.com.
The new kid on the chopping block is the fourth annual St. George’s Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk, based at St. George’s School in Clifton Park, and benefitting their scholarship fund. This event gets lots of support from the community’s turkeys who favor local hops instead of filing extended flight plans.
The 5K is flat, perfect for family groups of varying abilities, strollers and chariots, and parents who may end up toting their offspring. Early birds are assured of a turkey T-shirt to dress up their dinner attire. Check out stgeorgeschoolcp.org.
What is the turkey’s favorite day of the year? The day after Thanksgiving, of course! Expect to see a record number of lucky turkeys congregate at Altamont Elementary School in Altamont for the eighth annual Run Off that Turkey 5K on Saturday, November 28. According to race director Phil Carducci, this event will give turkeys an opportunity to go for the double drumstick, and stretch their legs after feeling penned in by the crowds at the popular Thursday events.
In anticipation of the cold weather, gloves will be given to all pre-registered runners. The USATF-certified course has all the normal rises and falls to keep things interesting, but is easy enough to be negotiated by those still feeling slightly stuffed. In a show of respect for aging flock members, awards go all the way through the 80-plus age group, one of a growing number of events to do so. Register at active.com.
With so many options to choose from, participating in a community Thanksgiving race is becoming the new normal. For many, it will be the one time they will claw the line each year.
Laura Clark (email@example.com) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner and ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross-country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.