Trivia question: What’s the oldest footrace in the United States?
If you answered the Boston Marathon, started in 1897, you are WRONG.
The Buffalo YMCA Turkey Trot is one year older, which started in 1896 with just six runners competing in a five mile stretch in downtown Buffalo, entirely on dirt roads. Today, people travel from all over the country and some from outside the country to compete. The cutoff for registration of this race is set at 14,000 people.
Some will say that there’s no way that they’d enjoy getting up early on Thanksgiving morning to run or walk 5 miles in the cold, and to them I say POPPYCOCK. It’s the happiest time of the year!
Just walking up to the start line, you start to see the herds of people going to the same place you are, and you realize because so many people are doing it too, that this will be awesome. There’s pace markers set up to tell you where to line-up; if you’re a 6-minute mile, 10-minute mile, etc. Sadly, few seem to really pay attention to that, so you sometimes line-up at the 7-minute mile marker and then get stuck behind the people who think they’re in shape for this but they end up walking after a quarter of a mile in.
9AM rolls around and the national anthem plays, the crowd is fired up to go and then you start to move. And then you stop. Getting that many people through the chute at one time is not the easiest thing. Then you start walking again. Then you stop again. This year I crossed the start line about 8 minutes past the start of the race; good thing there’s chip timing. Everyone is just in a great mood to be doing it, and it’s shown when you get under the bridge and everyone is yelling “woo!” for how it sounds with the echoes. Not only are there a lot of people participating in the event but there’s plenty of spectators that come to watch the excitement. Also shout-out to the volunteers because this would not happen without them.
Along the course you have a cast of characters to remind you that it’s not just a race or a run, but it’s an event. People rock their Bills or Sabres jerseys along the way, with or without a helmet, depending on the person, people in elf costumes, a Scooby-Doo one, Santa and his reindeers, a mix of pilgrims and Indians, a guy blasting the Rocky theme song as he carries a portable speaker, and literally thousands more than I could see. Along the street there’s the obligatory water stop, but because Buffalo is amazing, there’s beer being handed out as well. Just a taste though to get you through the rest of the race where there’s plenty more at the post-race party in the Buffalo Convention Center. That’s a good party too. Along with snacks and beer, there’s also live music and video of the first few runners coming in replayed on giant screens.
This past Thanksgiving was my 13th year doing it. 12 more years and I get inducted into the Quarter-Century Club, which includes a fancy pin! It’s all around a great event that brings an entire community together for a great cause. Registration for next year begins in August if you want to sign up and join in on what should be a fantastic time.
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