Cincinnati is just one of many cities and town across the country with a Thanksgiving Day race or “Turkey Trot”. After running an early 5 or 10 K race, no excuse is needed to eat as much turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie as your heart desires. You earned it!!
Cincinnati is unique as it has the distinct honor of hosting the oldest Thanksgiving Day race in the US. This year marks the 102nd Annual race.
I decided to run it. It would be my last race before the Death Valley and Las Vegas Marathons next weekend. I usually have a plan when I run, but this am I was not sure how to run it other than just relaxed, have fun and Finish Strong. However, there was one idea I decided to add with this race and it came from someone I’ve never met.
Lisa Zangara is a friend of one-of-my-favorite-people-in-the-world, Mary Kallio Brady who decided to share my blog on Facebook. Lisa saw it. Lisa is an avid cyclist and runner. She lost her father to Leukemia.
She wrote me:
“I have been running and cycling for over a year now..and I can say that each time for either a race or ride I have always done it for someone. It could be someone I know or a random stranger I meet who somehow has a personal life challenge. It just makes it all so much more meaningful and personal. That’s just me I guess. Good luck on your Turkey Day run!”
She then added that with recent races she had thought of her father as she rode her bike or ran her race. However, after reading about Parker, she decided to think of him and only him – for her half marathon today and all future races through the end of the year.
I had never done that.
If I thought of someone specific- which was rare, it was usually someone who I was upset with (think ex-girlfriend!) so I would pound out mileage out of vengeance on the road, hills or anything that lay in my path. And trust me, I always feel MUCH better afterwards, but the emotion was negative. If not running “against” someone who had wronged me, usually I just focused on me, how I felt, my breathing, etc. I had never thought about just one person; one person who I was emotionally connected with, on a deeper, empathetic level. Today I would follow Lisa’s lead and run for Parker.
I brought my P-A-R-K-E-R letters and the giant SMILEY FACE to the race. I didn’t have to look long for a photo opp – there were runners every where with Turkeys on their heads. We snapped this photo for Parker before the race. After the pre-race photo above, I dropped off my letters and SMILEY FACE at the Bob Ronckers Running Spot tent when I heard the starting gun go off.
To prepare for races like this one, I have found it beneficial to train with a group. For the past two years I have been running with the Bob Roncker’s group. They offer nutrition tips, running form workshops, formal group runs including the long runs on weekends and they train thousands of people every year for the spring Flying Pig Marathon, Fall marathons and the Thanksgiving Day race. In fact, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the formal training group for the Thanksgiving race. Bob Roncker owns four running stores in the Cincinnati area and is legendary in running circles. It was great to see lots of Roncker’s coaches and other runners before and after the race.
Today’s race is not only the oldest Turkey Trot but one of the largest with over 16,000 participants. So the elite runners are organized at the front, followed by corrals of runners based on their projected time/mile pacing (7 min, 8 min, 9 min, etc). Walkers are grouped at the back. …OR SO I THOUGHT!!! As I would find out, there is actually another group behind the walkers – The Strollers! Moms and Dads pushing their strollers! Who knew! I would start today’s race behind them. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t run with a watch. I don’t remember the clock time as I finally passed under the “Thanksgiving Day Race Start Banner”. I don’t remember passing the 1, 2 or 3 mile markers.
I do remember zipping, and zagging, running in, out and around others. I do remember bouncing on curbs, off curbs and running on grass at times. But mostly, I remember thinking of Parker and the race he was going through. Below are two images that were in my mind throughout the race. I think they capture who he is: an innocent five-year-old-boy with a recent diagnosis he nor his family could have ever imagined three months earlier. And an optimistic little fighter … a strong fighter who smiles all the time!! That’s Parker.
With these images in my mind, I ran across the bridges from Ohio to Kentucky and back, downtown and along 3rd street. Running around the final loop with 1/4 mile to go, I could see the finish line. I felt GREAT physically, Parker and his race still on my mind, as I crossed the finish line. AND I don’t even remember my finish time on the clock!
I made my way along with a steady stream of other runners to tables overflowing with water, bagels, and crackers and cheese. I saw the Bob Roncker’s Running Spot Tent and lots of familiar faces. Immediately my thoughts shifted to how the group and coaches have helped me make it to this point. If not for the GROUP, I would not be here and would not be running for Parker.
Again, no persuasion needed to get lots of people to take our Parker Picture. Many were familiar with his story and asked about how he was doing.
There is power in MANY. Under the guidance of the Roncker’s Group, countless people have run their first race – be it a 10k or marathon. Because of the Roncker’s Group, countless people have caught the “running bug”. Lives have been changed. A Group can have such a powerful impact.
There is power in ONE. Like Mary for sharing the blog, Lisa for reaching out to me and five-year-old Parker for just fighting Leukemia with such amazing grace and positive attitude. One person can have such a powerful impact.
I made it home a few hours later and noticed Lisa had finished her first-ever Half Marathon in 2:30!! She had Finished Strong and was quite please as you can see! Congrats!
Out of curiosity, I checked my results which were now posted. I was shocked with the numbers on the screen!
I finished in 44 minutes! A 7:06 pace for 6.2 miles and a personal record, beating my previous best from seven years ago by 2:23! …perhaps a chip error!?!
My friend and fellow runner living in Chicago, Tom Davoren said it best, “No chip error; witness the divine fuel of inspiration”.
Indeed, from the power of ONE and of MANY.