Winner, Winner, Turkey Dinner! Catnip’s Turkey Trot & Holiday Hustle Race Reports

Finishing into a headwind at the East Side Turkey Trot.
Finishing into a headwind at the East Side Turkey Trot.

Can you call yourself a real runner if you don’t do a Turkey Trot?

I think my first Turkey Trot was back in high school. I ran 26 or 27 minutes for 5k and remember being in awe of the speedy winner. We thought that winning a turkey was so hilarious that my dad and I posed with ours in our ugly-ass sweatshirts when we got home.

As I got older and quicker, the tradition evolved to trying to win that silly turkey race myself!  Except for 2013 (when I was seven-months pregnant) I’ve won the East Side Turkey Trot every year since 2010 and my Holiday Hustle streak goes back to 2007! 

East Side Turkey Trot

This year we were lucky to have 50 degree temperatures on Thanksgiving, although the wind was a little stiff. My dad and I did a short warmup and a couple strides before stepping to the starting line. I was pretty confident I would win until the gun went off and a tiny girl (14 years old!) shot out in front. I tried to keep my self-talk calm, but my heart was racing already. You see, in order to win the turkey you have to be the first to the mile-marker and that doesn’t give much time for strategy!

Fortunately for me, she slowed down after about a half-mile and I pulled alongside. After a turn, I got a step ahead and then a few more lengths. I was pretty sure I’d dropped her, but with about 100m before the mile-marker I put in a surge to be sure. 5:41 was good enough!

I won a turkey!
I won a turkey!

I laughed at myself for caring so much about winning a frozen bird and pulled back on the pace. My next goal was just to maintain my lead. A couple guys passed me and at the next turn I checked and saw I still had a solid gap on the girl. Mile-two was 6:23 followed by 6:14 mile-three. There were a few turns in mile-three and although I knew my lead was safe, I realized that I could probably break 19 so I increased the effort a bit. My mom and JB cheered for my kick and I hit the finish in 18:50.

Holiday Hustle

Two days later I was excited to take a shot at a postpartum PR at the Holiday Hustle, an evening race with a mix of racers and costumed runners. It’s a very fast course, flat with just 4 turns, and I set the course record and my road PR of 17:13 there. I’m definitely not that quick now, but I thought I had a chance to hit 17:45.

When they sounded the horn, I followed a group of high school boys and a masters runner in blinking lights down the dark road. I passed a few and tried to focus on staying relaxed and not starting off too fast. I passed the first mile in 5:43 which is perfect pace for breaking 18. I felt good!

I increased the effort a bit in mile-two and reeled in a couple more high-schoolers. Running wide around the hairpin turn, I saw I had a solid lead over the second-place woman, my friend and teammate Karen. A part of me wanted to settle back and be content with the win, but I talked myself into refocusing on the time goal and chasing the pack ahead. Mile-two was 5:58, although my long sleeves covered my Garmin so I didn’t know that sub-18 was slipping away.

Before the finishing stretch there’s a straightaway that is over a mile long. In the dark all I could see was the traffic light at the final turn and despite running hard, it never seemed to come closer! I tried to talk myself into pushing harder: Just five minutes left. Just four hard minutes. I can push for three minutes.

With a high school kid on my tail, I made the left-turn and raced him past the spectators getting ready for the holiday parade. I crossed the line first… in 18:16.

Probably not the most restful pre-race activity - but fun!
Probably not the most restful pre-race activity, but fun!

I was happy with the win, but disappointed with my time. Too little sleep and too much stress are probably the culprits here (and hauling a toddler around the zoo couldn’t have helped) so it’s a good thing I’ve got two weeks off from running planned. I’ll be back in January to chase college girls on the track and then go after a strong marathon , and if I could, I’d already be registered for my Thanksgiving races in 2016!

Did you run a Turkey Trot? Any running-related Thanksgiving traditions? 

I'm a 20-year veteran of competitive running, USATF certified coach, mom of a toddler -- and still trying to set PRs. I write about training from 5k to marathon, motherhood and competitive running, and the elite side of the sport. The 5k is my favorite race (16:56 PR) but I've got a score to settle with the marathon.

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  1. PR at this year’s turkey trot for me! Most fun race of the year, love seeing running club buddies and neighborhood friends.

  2. We usually run a Thanksgiving Day race (when we lived near Sacramento, CA, the annual Run to Feed the Hungry, almost 40,000 people, was a must-do family event). This year we were in NYC (didn’t see any Soho area turkey runs) so ran the day before with my older son. Saturday is the ColderBoulder 5k so will see how that goes as sort of a holiday run.

  3. Congrats on the wins and the times! I know the second time wasn’t what you wanted, but a solid effort none the less!

    My turkey trot history is pretty scattered. I’ve done a few different races over the years and also had some years like this year where I didn’t run. It’s one of those Holidays where our family doesn’t have set plans each year so it’s always different which obviously determines running abilities/logistics. This year I could have ran our local huge turkey trot (5,000+ runners) which I haven’t done before but chose not to. My boyfriends parents live ON the course and we enjoyed coffee and baileys while cheering for the runners going by. It was a great alternative for not running (I took week totally off).

  4. It wasn’t a Turkey Trot, but I ran a Thanksgiving race too. It wasn’t my best race (I ran about 30 seconds slower than my PR), but it was solid and my first post-knee injury road race so I was okay with it. Congratulations on your two wins!