A New Tradition: Trotting for Turkey

A year ago, I didn’t know that thousands of people wake up early on Thanksgiving morning and run in the cold.  It’s a day designed for sleeping in, unless you’re the one stuck with turkey duty.

But by September of this year, I had heard of the Turkey Trot phenomenon, and  it became a matter of choosing which one to tackle.

Then I learned that the Gifford Park Association, another Elgin neighborhood group, was hosting its first-ever Thanks a Lot Turkey Trot 5k, and my choice was easy.

The forecast began mentioning ominous words like “ice pellets” and “sleet,” but since a couple friends were committed, I was too. I went to the outlet mall yesterday with my parents, and managed to convince them to let me have one of my Christmas presents early. My new waterproof, breathable jacket should carry me through the winter, and today was the first test.

When I woke up, it was still dark, and everything was wet from a steady mist. But at least it was above freezing at 38 degrees. By the time my dear friend Sarah picked me up, the mist had stopped and the wind was picking up. My long sleeve Pumpkin Run shirt paired with my new jacket kept me plenty warm – the wind couldn’t cut through at all, and I actually unzipped the vents about mid-way through the race.

A small crowd assembled in the park, bringing canned goods for the local food pantry. The atmosphere was very laid back, unlike any other race I’ve done. I think a lot of it was the size of the crowd – there were maybe 50 participants? {Ed note: The Courier-News reported there were 111 participants – apparently my crowd estimating abilities need some work)- and the absence of many of the traditional race trappings. There were no bibs or chips, no timing mat, not even an official clock. Instead, as everyone assembled, the fantastic organizer Amanda read off a series of announcements, including something about a problem with a clock, so there was just a guy with a stopwatch.

But for a gloomy, damp holiday morning, the atmosphere felt exactly right. We took off and, without a crowd to keep my pace in check, I started way too fast. I looked down after a quarter mile and was running a 7:40 mile. Whoa, Nelly! I slowed to a brisk-but-comfortable 9:30 pace and enjoyed the course.

I’ll admit I was wary of a course that was two laps – I didn’t want to get lapped! – but the crowd was thin enough it was never an issue. I love the Gifford Park neighborhood (the oldest in Elgin, chock full of interesting, historic homes) and running through it provided an entirely new perspective. We trotted – that’s really the right word – past Channing School and up the steep but mercifully short hill, then around Channing Park and back down the hill and through the center of Gifford Park to began the second lap.

There were an abundance of water stops – essentially three along the way, counting the conveniently placed start/finish line stop at the midpoint – and the volunteers were at every turn so the turns were very clear.

I finished in 29:18, which isn’t great – my 5k PR stands at 28:12 on a very flat course – but given the mood and atmosphere, I was perfectly fine with it. Rather than awards for quickest finishers, those who brought the most canned goods took home prizes, which seemed fitting.

After I finished and grabbed water, I strolled back through the park cheer on everyone else coming in. It was Sarah’s very first 5k, so when I saw her I really cheered, and she joined me to cheer on Cassie a minute later. Post race refreshments included (nearly frozen) bananas, granola bars and Gushers. I would have liked to stick around a while longer, but it was getting colder (and has been all day – the current windchill tonight as I write is just 6 degrees) and people had feasts to prepare. Sarah and I went to find coffee and hot chocolate. Both good downtown shops were closed, so we ended up driving to Dunkin’ Donuts, sharing pumpkin and gingerbread donuts and warming up.

Overall, it was a great local, laid-back race that I would definitely do again. The shirts were cute, and it’s nice to have one with a well-designed logo not clouded by a dozen sponsors.

And I realize how thankful I am for my health, my ability to run, and all the friends, old and new, who make life so great.

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6 responses to “A New Tradition: Trotting for Turkey

  1. Sounds like it was a fun race. I had signed up for and was going to run the Fox and the Turkey held in Batavia. My fiance and I ran it last year and had fun. Unfortunately, I got sick yesterday so she went and ran it without me. From what I heard, the course was much better than last year and they had a technical long sleeve shirt instead of a cotton long sleeve, so that was nice. Perhaps I’ll do this one next year. It is certainly closer to our Thanksgiving activities!

    • Thanks for the comment, Mike! I had heard good things about the Batavia race, but really couldn’t beat something so close. I easily could have walked to the race, if not for a) needing to carry the shirt, and b) our nagging fear that the sky was suddenly going to open up with sheets of ice.

      I hope you’re feeling better today!

  2. Can’t wait til next year!

  3. Sounds better than Black Friday. I should give this a shot next year.

  4. Pingback: Over the River and Through the Muck | The Adventures of Elginista

  5. Pingback: 2011 Race Schedule | The Adventures of Elginista

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