Saturday, November 24, 2012

The 8th Annual Turkey Day 8K

One of my favorite events in Spartanburg starts early Thanksgiving morning when I roll out of my neighborhood toward downtown for the Turkey Day 8K. Usually Seth and Carroll join me, but this year I was all alone. Arriving in Morgan Square to hundreds of folks waiting to run is a really fun sight.

One year Carroll and I ran over in the pouring rain. Thinking very few would brave the horrible conditions, we were surprised to see several hundred people waiting in the parking garage near the start. The race went off that year without rain, which held off until Carroll and I started home.  Though the weather was miserable, the morning was, as it has been all these years, true community.

The numbers have increased each of the eight years it’s been run. After starting as a bet, attended by 40 people who brought canned goods as the entry fee, the race is now over 700, and we fill a box truck with food. I see a few people I only see at the race, and there are tons of people I don’t know. 

It's all about the socks.
The race has gotten more competitive as it has grown. There are no awards except for socks for the first 75 men and the first 75 women, no race results, just a clock and a course, but the winners generally run around 25 minutes these days. I ran about 30 seconds slower this year than last, and I dropped 14 places. Last year I ran the fastest I ever had, but dropped in place from previous years.

The start. Thanks, Facebook person, for the photo.
I think of this run as a tempo run, for sure, and end up running pretty fast out of excitement and joy. Yesterday the word was shouted, and off we went at a gentle downhill slope. I had totally forgotten what this type of start is like. I hadn’t warmed up a whole lot after I ran to the start, and had cooled off in the chill since then. I felt lumbering and a little out of sorts. 

The race starts through a series of rolling hills . My friend Harold pulled up and asked if I could maintain “6:19 pace” through the race. Not a chance. “That’s what you’re doing.” I haven’t run this pace since last year’s Turkey Day 8K, but it felt reasonably easy. I continued to pull through the crowd, a few folks passing me, as we settled into what was pretty much the line for the rest of the morning.

My friend Marguerite did roll past at about 2 1/2 miles or so. She’s a great runner, so I asked why she was back here with me. I don’t see Marguerite often, and she’s about my age. “I think you have to train fast to run fast,” she said. Sixty years of running experience between us--and both of us running way faster than we should have been.

The rolling hills on the course are fairly relentless. As we started up the last steep one, I said the the tall fellow running beside me that this one was going to hurt. To my surprise, it didn’t. Though my quads were pretty hammered, the uphill felt great and smooth. 

Socks in action.
Photo by Curt McPhail,
other leg by Laura Ringo
I was running with 8 or 10 others in a pretty tight group at this point, and I started to get nervous that the magic number 75 would end up being one of us. Not wanting to have a sprint finish of any sort (because I knew I would either throw up or get dropped in a second) I decided to string out that crowd a little. It’s my only hope, I thought, and surged a few times in the last 1/2 mile. 

That, actually, was super fun. I felt like I was racing, and I guess I was. The tall fellow ended up passing me at the end, but both of us were just striding and not really trying to beat each other. And of course, I got the socks--55th male in about 32:20 (I forgot to stop my watch). My friend Kam finished in 34:high something and was out of the socks. I’m telling you, I’m going to have to train for this dang thing next year.  

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