I don't know about you, but getting up at 7:45 am to run 5k in 30-degree weather was never super enticing. What was the point when I could run that much any other day in better weather? I only get so many mornings to sleep in--let alone in my own, luxurious, wonderful, heavenly bed--so why would I give up one of those valued mornings for a town tradition? The Turkey Trot never had so many purposes until I went to college. Coming home from college, it was the perfect chance to see friends, prove a few points, and (as with years past) burn enough calories to justify that third (dare I admit fourth?) slice of pumpkin pie. Here are the 10 reasons you should consider running in your town's Turkey Trot next Thanksgiving (start training now!):
1. Mini Reunions
The large volume of cars in search of parking in conjunction with blocked roads means it takes creativity and connections to get that VIP parking spot. I happened to run into my ex's parents the day before, and they happen to live a block from the starting line. We talked and caught up just like old times (we had a civil breakup, thankfully), and they offered a great parking spot in the alley behind their house. In the short walk to the starting line from their house where I said good morning to my ex and his family, I quickly spotted my best friend from high school. Right away, my morning was off to a great start because I had missed my friend so much (although if you live in a small town like me, running into someone you know is 100% guaranteed to happen 100% of the time you leave your house). We embraced each other and went on our way, but seeing him was the energy I needed to finish that 5k.
2. Proving to everyone that you're still mildly in shape and didn't gain the freshman 15 (...yet)
Most likely, if you're a freshman, someone bet money on you gaining weight in the months before Thanksgiving. The Freshman 15 is a thing, but some of us are fortunate to not fall victim to it (entirely). Okay, sure, when the Krispy Kreme is .1 mile away from campus, some lines will be a little softer and other edges squishier. No bother--pull on those athletic leggings, tie on your sharpest sneakers, and zip up that chic running jacket, and get running! Don't try too hard, however. We don't want our friends and family thinking we are fitness gurus because then they'll expect record times and that just isn't happening. My goal is just to finish without collapsing or freezing to death.
3. Proving to friends back at school that you actually exercise and are capable of running (besides running for free ice cream)
Pro tip: TAKE PICTURES AT RACE. Take pictures with the tracker pinned to your clothes, take pictures pre and post race, take Snapchats mid-race with the speedometer filter if you're brave. Do not leave without evidence that you ran an actual race and ran with no ice cream truck handing out free ice cream at the end. Give your friends from school the illusion that you were totally an athlete and fitness star back home. If you actually were, then be sure to share that part of your life with them because they'll love getting to know more about who you were and where you come from (that's half the fun of seeing everyone's Instagrams and Snapchats over breaks).
4. Family bonding
So, I completed the race and found my brother. Slowly my family of 6 found each other, but quickly my dad was sure to share his greatest success story: taking a shot mid-trot. I kid you not--my 53-year-old father complimented a family on their tailgate in their front yard (the 5k goes through neighborhoods), stopped to socialize as he does, and was offered a shot of whiskey in a wild turkey shot glass. My sister gave him endless high fives, my brother smiled proudly, and I guffawed in disbelief. Quickly this Turkey Trot was turning into a 5k to remember. Who knows? Maybe if you take a chance on the Trot, you two may be offered a shot or will get the pleasure if imagining your parent toss it back at 9am on Thanksgiving morning.
5. The joy of seeing friends are doing well, too
As much as I relished in the chance to prove I did not gain the 15 pounds, it was similarly joyful to talk to friends about their college experience so far. I loved hearing "I'm doing great!" and "School is going really well!" over and over because I could see in their faces that they meant it. Watching friends leave in the summer is hard, and you can only hope that they do well and will be happy; coming back and seeing that actualized is definitely something to give thanks for as you catch your breath post-trot.
6. A reminder of why you knew you'd miss this place
If you don't live in a small town, then running in the Turkey Trot has a different feeling. But if you do, then you definitely understand the novelty of your town's YMCA hosting the annual Turkey Trot, the familiarity of names as you scroll through the results, and the fun in running through your favorite streets in town. As I jogged down the middle of my favorite road, I glanced up at the trees that line each side of the street. The leaves filled my eyes with color, and I looked out at the hundreds of people jogging ahead of me; suddenly a wave a sentimentality washed over me as I remembered why I knew I'd miss my hometown so much. It's the place that shaped you into the person you started college as, and it probably did a pretty damn good job on the basis that it's a pretty damn great place to call home.
7. Realizing the perfect metaphor
When I reached the 2-mile marker, I was still trotting but certainly with less steam. A hill was approaching, and I began to think about how this 5k is a great metaphor for the first semester of college: you start off with an abundance of enthusiasm and excitement, feeding off others' energy at the starting line. Mile 1 goes smoothly, then mile 2 you begin to feel the cold creep up your sleeves. At mile 3, you know you're close but your feet ache and your breathing is heavy. The end is near as visions of pumpkin pie float in your mind to keep you running. It's a sprint at the end, but when you cross that finish line you take a tremendous sigh of relief. Tell me that isn't a great metaphor for what it feels like to endure your first semester of college?
8. When the going gets tough, your principal will be there to motivate you
Not gonna lie, I was struggling up that hill. My principal from high school suddenly was running at my side (note: every girl had a crush on him in school), and he said to me in his all-too-familiar style, "Here we go, Lydia!". I replied, "If that doesn't motivate me, I don't know what will!" and picked up my pace. The point is not that your high school principals will inspire you to finish a 5k or study for that final, but rather that in every challenge, race, or adventure, we are surrounded by those who want to see us succeed and will be by our sides along the way. Running in your town's Turkey Trot might open your eyes to the number of people chanting your name.
This one's easy to explain: in a time defined by change and new experiences and environments, traditions keep us grounded. There's nothing like an annual Turkey Trot to give a taste of the way things used to be.
10. And of course...justification to savor that third slice of pumpkin pie (or whatever dessert you please)
For years past, I had few better reasons to get up early on Thanksgiving to run a 5k than to feel better about my indulging to come that evening. Who says that has to change when you come home from college? In fact, college is hard so that's an extra season to cut yourself another piece of grandma's pie. Run a few miles, dollop on some homemade whipped cream, and eat your pie. You deserve it.