Together Again

David Yon, November 29, 2021

It has been a long time (20 years) since either Mary Jean or I have not spent time on Esplanade Way in the SouthWood State Office complex on Thanksgiving morning. Turkey Trot has a cadre of dedicated volunteers who can say the same thing, as can hundreds, maybe thousands, of runners.  Last year, for the first time in all those years, Mary Jean and I were virtually alone at the starting line yelling “go” to runners all over the city, state, and country to start their own “virtual” run to keep the Turkey Trot spirit moving.

There comes a point every year in the preparation for Turkey Trot, I think to myself, this might be the last one.  The prerace workload and stress grow as race day gets closer. Last year COVID-19 put us all on our own island running apart from each other. This year the question was “Can we bounce back from the virtual world and do it safely?” I also wondered whether this might be the year my Parkinson’s would win the fight and say, “no more.”

There is no better feeling in the world than watching hundreds and ultimately thousands of runners turn onto Esplanade Way from Merchants Row and run for  the finish line less than one tenth of a mile from that turn.  They are all kinds of people and come in all sizes, shapes and belief systems.

A friend’s message popped up on my screen the day after the race:

Thanks for making Thanksgiving great again!  As I reflect on this a.m., I realized You brought thousands of Democrats and Republicans together this a.m.  There were vaccinated and unvaccinated. There were families enjoying the start to a great holiday with each other and friends. There was no arguing, or disagreements.  We had all races and religions present. We need more of this.

The You above does not mean me personally but an entire team of volunteers who love the way Turkey Trot makes us feel. The race is the product of a fantastic co-director, a magical executive team of volunteers, most of whom have at least 10 years’ experience working the race, hundreds of volunteers, sponsors’ support, and a special day of the year like no other. It is physical activity, running and walking, that brings us all together in an almost magical way. Yes, things can and do go wrong, but Thursday almost everything went right starting with the weather.  Mary Jean and I were stopped over and over by participants and thanked for the chance to share a special day.

This year was nowhere near the largest crowd the race has had. In fact, not counting last year, you have to go a long way back to find a smaller turnout. But it was a wonderful change from the one and only virtual event last year that featured an empty Esplanade Way. It is a start in the right direction.

Here are a few fun facts and figures:

  • A total of 4,343 people registered for the event.
  • All but 144 of those people picked up their race bibs.
  • 3,769 registered and finished in the One-Mile (657), 5K (2,577), 10K (351), and 15K (184) races.

T-Shirts claimed the prize for causing the most confusion and clearly demonstrated that the race directors got surprised by the large number of participants! The race day T-Shirt crew deserves a round of applause for making 103 people smile when they distributed 160 shirts from the re-order list!

And last but not least, 217 people signed up as Turkey Trot Heroes and Super Heroes who donated a total of almost $30,000 to the three nonprofits the race supports which are the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Bend, the Refuge House, and the Kearney Center. That amount is, by far, the most raised through the Hero program we’ve seen in the past five years and likely a Turkey Trot record. (These beneficiaries also share in any net proceeds from the race.)

There was some serious racing in addition to all the good will. Katie Sherron ran 56:19 to win the women’s division of the 15K comfortably ahead of runner up Hannah Hosay who grabbed second place in a time of 1:03:10. Trevor Sununu maintained a 5:35 minute pace to win the men’s 15K title this year in a time of 51:59.  Chris O’Kelley took second with a not so close time of 54:35.

Of special note, Ann Centner covered the 5K course in a time of 16:26 matching the Turkey Trot 5K women’s record of 16:26 run by Violah Legat in 2012. Chris Haynes was the men’s 5K winner in a time of 15:33. Matt Mizereck finished second in 16:05.  The 5K record belongs to Ricardo Estremera and Matt Mizereck as they have both previously run the race in14:46.

Joe McLeod won the 10K in a time of 36:53 to finish ahead of Montford Middle School cross country coach Brad Busboom who ran 37:47. Amy Hines was the top woman finishing in 38:33. Brittney Barnes was second in 40:45.

So, Mary Jean took care of the weather, bringing in a cool morning with clear blue skies. Parky had to sit in the corner. The volunteer machine did its part and the smiles and thank yous were everywhere as runners enjoyed Thanksgiving  together again.

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