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Race report: Turkey Trot 2009

There are two things I should know better: Not to believe my friend Sue at the staring line of a race and that I always overdress.

Let's start with attire. The 114th Annual YMCA Turkey Trot attracted 12,000 runners (and walkers) for the 8K jaunt down Delaware Avenue and a healthy number of them were dressed up. In fact, it's become popular not to ask if you're running the Turkey Trot but what you're running the Turkey Trot dressed up as. It's part of the spectacle of the event. There were guys who had body painted tuxedo shirts on their chests, girls in Santa's helper outfits and one group who made the traditional elementary school crafts of paper hats and vests, themed for Thanksgiving. Others wore turkey hats or played on the Native American-Pilgrim theme.

Still others dressed up more for the gimmick effect than for the holiday spirit, like the duo dressed as bananas or the guy suited up as the mascot from Burger King. Or my friend who said he was dressing as a pirate. I figured it was not to make any further inquiries there.

I was without an official gimmick, but decided to create my own version. When running outdoors I use the "20 degree rule" -- dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer. And so with temperatures in the 40s, it was clearly running skirt weather. I wanted to wear my pink running skirt for my "gimmick" and decided to pair with my my white Under Armour cold gear shirt topped off with a light-weight pink t-shirt. My gimmick -- I was the "pink stuff" many of us would need later that day after eating our weight in stuffing and following that up with the ill-advised second piece of pie.

But in my desire to color coordinate, I eschewed part of my 20-degree rule with the cold gear top and by the first mile was way too warm.

Of course, being way too warm at the first mile could also have been induced by starting the race with Sue.

Sue and our friend Herm were playing a race game -- she gets a five minute head start and Herm sees how long it takes to catch her. Void of any goal for the day other than to have fun, I decide to line up with Sue.

"I'm going to start real slow and take it easy the first mile," she told me. "I'm going to warmup in that first mile."

I have never complained about starting out slow.

In the corral, I did my happy dance (as described in yesterday's blog post) and was grateful for the opportunity to be around friends, to have a great morning to run and to be blessed with the opportunity to do something I love.

The gun went off.

And I stayed with Sue for about 90 seconds.

I worked hard to try and keep up with her, or at least keep her in sight, but it was a lost cause. By the time we got to the first mile marker, I glanced at my watch. 8:40. Wait! 8:40? I am quite sure I have never run that fast before in my life.

Yeah, so much for that nice easy warm-up mile.

I settled into a pace that was challenging but not overwhelming and then I let the joy take over. People in gimmicks passed me, and I smiled. Others found friends on the course and shouted Thanksgiving greetings. Spectators lined some parts of the course cheering on the runners. Of particular fun were the little kids who brought out their bells and tambourines. 

Any time the running started to feel hard, something made me smile. 

As the course turned back up Franklin toward the finish line, the public address announcer encouraged the runners, noting, "If you can hear my voice, pick it up. You're almost there." I didn't exactly sprint, but did run a bit faster the final hundred yards.

Before the race, I was convinced my time would be slower than last year and that was fine with me. I was running the Turkey Trot for fun and life circumstances sometimes mean we don't run fast. (Noting here that fast is a relative term.)

But alas, I focused on the fun and still beat my time from last year -- by 44 seconds.

Later that day, my brother asked me if anyone runs the Turkey Trot seriously.

Of course. For the elite runners in the area, there certainly is prestige in winning the race. This year's winners were both locals who attend local colleges. Dennis Pollow, a 22-year-old from Ransomville and the University at Buffalo, won the men's race in 24:52 while Maura Frauenhofer, a 20-year old from Williamsville and Canisius, won the women's race in 29:06.

Other runners take to the course to win age groups or run a specific workout in training for an up-coming race.

But the vast majority of the Turkey Trot runners are there to celebrate with family and friends. They may try to beat each other in the spirit of friendly rivalry or they may run together. Families of moms and dads with their pre-teen kids dot the course, making it a Thanksgiving tradition. Friends who are good runners head to the back of the pack to help their first-timer buddies make it through the 4.97 miles.

When you notice all of this in your 45-minute run for the day -- the talent of the elite runners, the pageantry of the gimmicks and spectators, the camaraderie of the crowd -- your gratitude list grows.

Thank you happy dance.

--- Amy Moritz
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