Thanksgiving is special. It’s my favorite holiday for many reasons — some of my most precious childhood memories revolve around Thanksgiving. I remember my family gathering at my grandparents’ house in Lake Charles, La., and watching the Macy’s parade while waiting for turkey dinner and Dallas Cowboys football. At halftime of the game, we would go outside and participate in our own bloated football game.
My Thanksgiving memories aren’t unique. I know many people who have the same exact stories and memories. It’s the greatest holiday, because it focuses on fellowship with loved ones. And incredible food followed by a deluge of dessert pies (get out if you think cakes are better than pies).
In recent years, I’ve added to turkey-day tradition. My Thanksgivings now start with a run, preferably through a crisp, cool morning.
Among the multitude of things I’m thankful for, running is high on the list. Running has changed my life for the past seven years. It has taught me how to be more determined, ambitious, and slightly more patient.
Until this year, however, I had never participated in an official Thanksgiving race. Traveling home to DeRidder, La., most years meant no organized and timed events close to me. Last year, I helped lead a Turkey Trot at Fleet Feet San Diego, but that race wasn’t officially timed.
So, when I lined up for the Flying Feather in Dublin, Ohio, Thursday morning, I was guaranteed two personal bests. First, it would be my fastest official Thanksgiving race. Second, my immediate 4-mile-race PR.
Pro tip: want to score an instant personal record? Sign up for a new distance!
I arrived early enough to get a solid, six-mile warmup. With the temperature sitting at 27 degrees (crisp and cool, check and check), I needed a few extra miles before I could feel my fingers and toes.
The Flying Feather Four Miler has a festive vibe. Bumping music and an abundance of turkey costumes (nearly 3,000 runners completed the course this year). But as soon as the race started, the field thinned quickly.
My goal was to run sub-six minute pace the entire way. The course had more hills than I expected, but I was still able to settle into my pace right away — the longer warmup helped greatly.
I hit mile 1 (which had the most elevation gain) in 5:55. Right on target. Mile 2 clicked by easily in 5:52, so I felt like I was in great position. But when I tried to drop my pace a bit more in mile 3, my legs wouldn’t respond. The course had several short rolling hills in mile 3, and knowing I still had a full mile left started to make me stress.
For most of mile 3 my watch showed me slightly slower than 6-minute pace. Somehow I was able to pick it up in the final .2 to get back to 5:56 for my third split. Then I found my final-mile gear. I dropped to a 5:39 on my final mile, as I passed one runner and held off another who was surging behind me to finish seventh overall (23:34).
The course was beautiful. Flying Feather starts and finishes at a winery, and the roads weave through neighborhoods with giant house, country roads next to open fields, and woods with tall trees. Then, right after the solemn wooded area, runners turn to the finish line where loud music is pumping and spectators are cheering.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first timed Thanksgiving race, and I plan on making turkey trotting a forever tradition.
Running on a Thanksgiving morning sets up the rest of the day perfectly.
A day full of family, food, and football.
I could write an entire separate review of the food I ate this Thanksgiving. Short version: it was amazing. I got to eat with my family Tuesday night and then with my wife’s Thursday afternoon. Both meals were perfect (and I’ll be eating fried turkey for my next several meals).
As another Thanksgiving came and passed, I reflected on how many things have changed in the past several years. I don’t know exactly what’s ahead, but I’m deeply thankful for where I am right now. I’m grateful for the highs and the lows that make the highs so much better.
Thank you to those of you who have impacted my life. There are more good things ahead.
Including leftovers. Lots and lots of leftovers.