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Beware the Turkey Trot

BY OLIVIA COFFEY
PHOTO BY ED MORAN

A turkey trot may seem like the perfect athletic accompaniment to your Thanksgiving holiday, a great excuse to spend the remainder of the day eating and watching football guilt-free.

That’s what I thought on my first, and notably last, turkey trot while I was visiting in-laws in Kentucky. On the ride to the course, the four of us agreed to run together at a comfortable pace. We arrived, pinned on our bibs, and immediately joined the pack at the starting line. An air horn signaled a chaotic and crowded start, but eventually we settled into an enjoyable pace.

This didn’t last long. Before I knew it, my sister-in-law, an avid runner, gradually pushed ahead. I shrugged off her move, thinking she was too advanced for our pedestrian pace. The three of us remaining stayed together and continued to plod ahead. Eventually, the number of runners around us petered out, and I could feel our pace picking up.

A gradual uphill brought the demise of my brother-in-law. The increased speed, along with a lack of warmup, led to a pulled hammy. “Go on without me,” he grimaced, as my husband and I cruised on by.

The two of us were now knocking on the door of our peak running abilities. I had personally tried to avoid running, finding little correlation between it and rowing, but my training made it possible for me to sustain decent speeds with little preparation.

As we entered the last third of the race, we were surrounded by those of similar speed. Occasionally, we were passed by another runner–a gifted kid, a person with those small running shorts. This didn’t bother me. I was content deferring to a better runner.

Until I was passed by another woman about my height, about my age. “Wait a minute,” my inner voice taunted, “I can fun faster than her.” I took off in pursuit as the sound of my husband’s labored breathing faded behind.

I chased her down and was able to eke out a lead in the last quarter mile or so, hitting my max heart rate and winning my age division in the process. I was greeted at the finish by my smiling sister-in-law. My husband followed. Eventually, my brother-in-law hobbled past the finish line.

     While the rest of the day was quite enjoyable, the next morning my body felt like it had been hit by a train. My shoulders ached, my hips were tight, my low back throbbed. The real kicker, though, were the calves. I couldn’t walk for days. 

     My advice, if you plan on turkey trotting, is to prepare in advance, and if you can’t, you’re better off watching football on the couch. 

Competition Guidelines

  • Prepare: Spend at least six weeks training sport-specific muscles before any event.
  • Warmup: Get the body moving before hard exercise, especially as the weather gets colder.
  • Stick to the Plan: Stay focused and avoid letting competitive tendencies derail days/weeks of training.     

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