Turkey Trot

Until last Thanksgiving, tradition dictated that I sleep in, then watch the Macy’s parade on TV before meeting up with family for a huge lunch. We’ve done everything from formal meals with the extended family to small gatherings at Threadgills. Last year, I started a new tradition: running the Turkey Trot, a five-mile race through downtown. This year, the three of us signed up.

Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people converged on the same spot–we must have sat in traffic for 30 minutes just to get in to the parking garage. But eventually we found a space and wandered out onto Auditorium Shores, next to the bridge where the race would start. Thousands of people milled around–serious runners, families, strollers, dogs. I saw a lot of people with coffee cups, and I shuddered–I love coffee and generally drink large quantities of the stuff, but I can’t tolerate it before a run. Bleah.

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The t-shirt

We made our way to the bridge. It was a gorgeous morning–sunny and clear, but not what most people think of as traditional Thanksgiving temperatures. I think it was near 70 at the start. We found a space with the untimed runners, but I saw a lot of folks with green (untimed) race numbers moving toward the very front. It is generally not an issue for me because I am slow, but serious runners get seriously pissed off dodging walkers and meanderers who decided they had to be first, so I was mildly annoyed watching people who were clearly walkers (the guy wearing jeans, the woman wearing Crocs…) move to the front.

The other thing I don’t get is people who put their race numbers on the backs of their shirts. Do you ever see an Olympic racer with his number on his back? No. In many races I’ve been a part of, the announcers read your number and your name as you cross the finish line–how can they do that with your number on your back? And 3/4 of the Turkey Trotters had theirs on the front–this should have been a clue. Why invest extra work of having someone else pin your number on your back? Even some of the timed runners did this–you’d think a runner who paid extra for the timed race would be experienced enough to know the damn thing goes on the front.

At about 9:25, a local artist began singing the national anthem. Having attended a lot of sporting events, I’ve found that when a live person sings the anthem (as opposed to a marching band), not too many people sing along, and that was the case here. But about halfway through, the PA system went silent, and an amazing thing happened. The crowd began singing, louder and louder, to finish the anthem, even after the PA came back on.

Starting line on the First Street bridge

The announcer said there were 23,000 people ready to go, and the starting horn blared. It took several minutes for us to make our way to the starting line itself, and even once we got through, it was slow going. Walkers strode right down the middle of the street, and once, a woman stopped in front of me to tie her shoe. I dodged left, but someone else crashed into her.

Heading north on Lavaca

There were funny things too–tons of Thanksgiving-themed costumes, Santa hats, and tutus. A trio of breakfast foods–a donut, an egg, and bacon–trotted along near a chef chasing a turkey. I was glad I’d worn short sleeves–the official race shirt is long-sleeved, and many folks looked hot right from the start.

One couple off to my left had a conversation that sounded like the last scene in Titanic. He gasped and told her to go on without him, and she replied with a plaintive, “But I don’t want to leave you!” I don’t know how it turned out because we kept on going, but I hope he fared better than Jack Dawson.

Somewhere in that first mile, I passed a guy pacing on the sidewalk, yelling Bible verses. He called one woman a whore, and yelled something obscene at another. Ah, family entertainment.

At the first mile marker, the course turned left. This is the toughest part of the race–a mile of hills. You make it up and down the first one, then realize that was just a teaser. The real hill is about a half-mile of curving, sloping torture. I did not envy the runners pushing strollers up that sucker.

15th Street
(Photo via RunTex)

We walked most of it–my hip was hurting, and I hadn’t managed much of a decent pace that first mile and a half. I wasn’t feeling it at ALL, so after a while I tossed out the finish-with-a-good-time thing and decided to have fun, even if that meant walking some.

So we made the most of it. We walked up the hills and ran the downhills and flats. I saw a couple of people I knew, which always amazes me in a huge crowd. We ran on, admiring the funny costumes, although I can only imagine how unpleasant it must have been for the guy running in a full turkey suit! By mile four, everyone looked a little bedraggled–long sleeves were pushed up, fluffy boas stuck to sweaty necks, feathers had fallen out of costumes.

We hit the final stretch across the bridge, and as we turned the last corner, cheering spectators lined the course. The three of us held hands as we crossed the finish line.