The Turkey Trot: Then & Now

If you’re from Buffalo, you know that the Turkey Trot is an 8k (4.97 mile) race held every year on the morning of Thanksgiving. This year is the 117th race, and raises money for the Buffalo Niagara YMCA. It is one of Buffalo’s oldest traditions, with the first race being held in 1896 – holding the title of North America’s oldest, continuously run, public foot race. From 1896 until the mid-1900’s, the Turkey Trot was run on dirt roads and rugged stone paths. It wasn’t until roads were paved that the tradition moved to Delaware Avenue, the current route of the race.

The Turkey Trot has expanded beyond a Buffalo tradition, bringing in participants from around the world. In recent years, racers have come from as far away as Ireland and Australia to experience this race.The first race in 1896 had only six participants, revealing the drastic increase in popularity that the Turkey Trot has received over the years. In 2010, the race was capped at 12,500 participants, only to increase the following year to 13,200. This year, the race was capped at 14,000 participants, and sold out faster than the previous two years.

This year will be my fifth Turkey Trot. While I’m not the fastest runner, its a lot of fun to swerve in and out of the crowds, trying to make my own path through the thousands of runners who are all trying to get to the same place. While 5 miles may sound overwhelming to some people, its a rather scenic route that makes the time fly by, and the run a little easier. And by scenic, I’m not just referring to Delaware Park, Forest Lawn Cemetery, or the old mansions viewed along the way. I’m also referring to the costumes that many runners wear, outdoing themselves year after year. Out of all of the costumes I’ve seen, including trains of turkeys, pilgrims, snow bunnies, and more – my all time favorite are the hockey players (and one ref) wearing helmets that just so happen to have beer dispensers attached to them, just in case they get thirsty along the way. The first time I saw them running, they made a 10 second pit stop at a glass-enclosed bus stop, yelling at the “ref” for putting them in the “penalty box.” (What I still don’t understand is how this group of middle-aged men continue to beat me year after year. Then I remember that there is free beer at the finish line, and that they’re probably running faster so that they don’t run out.)

My goal last year was to finish under 45 minutes – I crossed the finish line at 44:52. This year, my only goal is to beat the hockey players.

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