Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5k

(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 11/25/11)
Like many runners, one of my annual traditions is to run a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning.  It’s a great way to celebrate the holiday, and of course it also makes me feel a bit less guilty about over-indulging in a turkey dinner.  Almost all of the “turkey trots” that I’ve done have been in Tucson, with a few in Albuquerque.
The Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5k, sponsored by the Southern Arizona Roadrunners and The Running Shop was the 18thannual edition of this race.  The course is a “European Style” layout in Reid Park, complete with hills, hay bales to hurdle, muddy areas, grassy stretches and dirt paths, and a couple of water jumps.  The full course is two loops with lots of turns, so there are plenty of places for spectators to cheer.  My friend Martin is the Race Director and he works very hard to put on an outstanding event.
The Men’s and Women’s races are held separately, and the event has grown considerably.  I remember running turkey trots with less than 100 participants, and now we have about 800 men and 800 women, which makes for a fun but crowded event.
I helped out with the pre-race packet pick-up, handing out t-shirts.  One highlight was meeting Joanna, who is in charge of the San Francisco Marathon Ambassadors, and her sister.  This race brings a lot of families out, and it’s so fun to meet participants and see their excitement.  Two of my own family members also ran today – my wife, Pam, and son, Jason both ran the 5k.
The women’s race began first, at 8:00 a.m.  Many very fast runners come to this race, including high school and college cross country runners.
I ran around cheering my wife and other friends, including some of the “Sexy Ladies of Workout Group” (S.L.O.W.) team members.  I handed my camera to my friend, Chris, when I took a short warmup and then could not find him, but fortunately he took a bunch of photos for me.
Pam’s been injured and didn’t decide to run until last night.  She did pretty well but did not manage to take home a prize like she has in some other years (in the past we’ve actually gone home with pumpkin pies, a chicken, and other goodies).
When the men’s race began, everyone flew out – there was a lot of arm jostling and jockeying for position going on for the first mile or so!
My calf was hurting the whole way but really got painful in the second mile.  Since I’m planning to run Rock’n’Roll Las Vegas Marathon in 10 days, I was nervous about pushing to the point of serious damage, so I did hold back just a little.  It helped that many took off too fast so I passed people most of the way.
The water jumps were a blast because the huge crowd of spectators was cheering loudly and taunting the mud splashers (which was pretty much everyone).  Here’s my son Jason enjoying the mud:
I finished in 19:43, not a great time for me but very satisfactory.  Although I often place in my age group in local races, this time I was 7thage group, 83rd overall.  My son Jason set a new 5k PR by crossing the line in 26:58 – he has kept dropping his PR time this year and always makes me proud.  One thing I admire about him is that even though he’s not a serious runner, when he races he really puts out a hard effort.
Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, and starting the day off with a fun event is an excellent way to experience some of the things in life that I am most grateful for.  I’m thankful for my family; for the wonderful community of running friends; for the good health that allows me to continue running; for volunteers who come together on a holiday to put together a high quality race; for the beautiful parks in our city and the workers who maintain them; for the nice weather here in Tucson; and for so many other things.  It’s all a gift.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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