There are more races for runners around the country on Thanksgiving day than any other day of the year. That's according to Runner's World magazine, and it makes sense. Just about every city and town in the Chicago area seems to hold a Turkey Trot. You can find everything from 5k's to half-marathons, though the emphasis is on the shorter distances.
For many, it's a family tradition. That's certainly the case where I live in Elmhurst. Nearly 10,000 people (almost a quarter of the population) run the Dan Gibbons 5k Turkey Trot. This year was the 29th annual, and it included many parents and their children. For some, it's their only race of the year, and competition is not the objective. They are in it to get their Thanksgiving started off right, and help ease any guilt they might feel about the meal they will eat later in the day!
It was a special day for my two oldest daughters as well. My 6 and 7 year old girls did their first race with their mother. For weeks leading up to it, they were challenging each other to see who could run the longest. They were very proud to finish.
As for my race, I wanted to run a good 5k, but had no intention of racing really hard. So, rather than aim for 20 minutes, I was aiming for 21. Making that a little easier was the fact that the weather was incredible for late November. Rather than bundling up in a long sleeve shirt and running pants, I ran in a singlet and shorts! That made the 21:06 I ran feel pretty easy. But it was not without a funny story.
I met up with a couple friends from the Elmhurst running club at the starting line, and figured I would keep pace with them. When the horn went off, I made my way through the crowd. But somehow, I quickly lost my friends. For some reason, I thought they had run ahead of me, and I gave chase. As I tried to keep a brisk 6:45 pace, I kept scanning the crowd of runners ahead of me, to no avail. These friends are fast, but I doubted they would get so far in front of me I wouldn't even be able to see them in the first mile.
Maybe they took off hard, I thought, but they'll come back to me. They had to right? Well, through the second mile, and the third, there was still no sign of them. When the finish line was in sight, I gave up trying to find my friends and concentrated on keeping good form through the end of the race.
But after crossing the line, I still didn't see them. Did they dissappear? I ran to the place I'd checked my gear, grabbed my camera to take a few of the photos you see, and saw my High School running pal John cross the line. He is getting back in shape, and was pleased to get a solid run in to start the day.
I also got to see some of the Thanksgiving spirit this Turkey Trot is known for. There were plenty of turkey costumes, to go along with Pilgrim and native American constumes. Lots of the runners were from Elmhurt's York High school. The boy's swim team kept their tradition of running in their speedos. They lucked out this year with the warm temperature, though I have seen them run in previous years when there was snow on the ground.
I usually don't linger too long after races. But in this race, the party afterward is just as much a tradition as the run. It's a chance to see neighbors and friends, and share a holiday toast, before heading onto the family feasts later in the day. It was also a chance to finally find the friends I'd lost at the start. It turns out I somehow got out in front of them at the start. So while I was chasing them the whole race, they were actually chasing me!
That sounds like a good way to call it a season. This marks what I anticipate will be my last race of the year. There are some pretty fun Christmas themed runs coming up in the next couple weeks, but I'm going to shut it down and enjoy running with no immediate goal in mind for a short while. I think.
See you on the roads.....