A few weeks back we decided to run a turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning. This in itself is nothing new for Mindy, she has been running the Mesa Turkey Trot for the past few years now and is a veteran of outrunning a stranger dressed in a turkey costume. I have never had the joy of running a turkey trot, usually due to my work schedule, and occasionally due to my love of sleep. This year would be different though, because as luck would have it I had a clear schedule on turkey day. More importantly though, the stars aligned to make one of my dreams come true. I would get to be that stranger in the turkey suit.
I’m not even sure how I ended up wanting to run in a costume, let alone a bulky turkey suit, but I’m going to blame it on the Chik-fil-A cows. I pass a Chik-fil-A on the way to and from work each day, and often times I’ve seen one of their employees out on the sidewalk dancing up a storm in a cow costume. It’s been a regular looking cow, a cow in a superhero costume, but no matter which version, it always looked like fun to me. What could be more fun than dancing in a cow suit and having people wave and honk as they drive by, all while you bust out your most impressive dance moves? Ok, I guess when I read that out loud, lots of things come to mind, but either way it looks fun to me. Knowing Chik-fil-A doesn’t pay well enough that I can quit my job in order to don the cow suit, I figured my chances of wearing a costume were non-existent. Long story short, I was wrong.
As Thanksgiving approached, talk of running the Mesa Turkey Trot surfaced around our house. Mesa’s turkey trot features a person dressed up like a turkey, and if you’re quick enough to outrun the turkey you’ve rewarded with a certificate announcing your accomplishment. (Mindy’s certificate from last year is still on our fridge. Apparently it’s quite an accomplishment…) As exciting as outrunning a turkey sounded, I wasn’t sold. I could just as easily sleep in and be satisfied on Thanksgiving. I did wonder though, how did the guy in the turkey suit got bestowed with such an honor? Did he just happen to have a suit? Was there an application process? Though the more I thought about it, the more I wondered how I could find a way to run as a turkey. Surely there are other turkey trots around town who need a turkey to run, right? Of course, I was missing one small detail- I don’t exactly have a turkey suit lying around the house.
One of the joys of marriage is when your partner can still surprise you after all the years you’ve been together. A perfect example would be when I asked Mindy if she knew any way I could get a turkey suit. She’s well aware of my love of those dancing cows, so I doubt my question surprised her. Her response, however, surprised me. She said she did know of a turkey suit I could most likely borrow, a suit a co-worker owns and uses for the turkey trot at the local school. A short time later, she was able to confirm the suit would be available and I was one step closer to making my dream a reality. Now I just had to find a turkey trot in need of a turkey.
I’m still not sure if there are turf wars for costumed runners, but fearing a turkey showdown, I decided I would avoid the Mesa race. I figured it would be best to find a race in need of a turkey, so after placing a few calls (ok, one call) I found the Anthem Turkey Trot, hosted by 4 Peaks Racing, was more than thrilled to have me come out. (Basically they didn’t say no, so I’ll assume they were thrilled…) Julie from Tribe paired me up with the Anthem folks, so thanks to Julie for finding this turkey a race!
Fast forward to the night before the race… I decide to actually try on the suit and while visually appealing from the outside, it’s hard to breathe in while standing in the family room, and I’d say the visibility is about 30%. Maybe running a 5k isn’t the best idea after all…
Race morning comes and I’m ready to go. Once we arrive on site, I get into costume and pull on my Tribe running singlet. Apparently I’m deemed an actual runner despite my costume and given a bib number which I pin on. While I can’t see much out of the eye holes of the suit, I’m pretty sure I look amazing. Mindy give me the thumbs up, and given my sight issues, we quickly work out a system where I follow her through the crowd and she calls out curbs so I don’t fall over.
Before getting into costume I figured I’d probably get my picture taken a few times by random people. I am, after all, in a turkey suit on Thanksgiving morning. I was right. And yet, so wrong. I had my picture taken to be sure, but it felt like everybody at the race was stopping me for a picture. I was referred to as Turkey, Turkey Guy, Mr. Turkey, Turkey Man, and many other names that morning. Kids, families, groups of friends and even random people who wanted to dance with me all stopped me as I was wandering around waiting for the race to start. I obliged them all, and it was so much fun.
As for the race itself, well it went pretty well. I didn’t wear my Garmin, but Mindy ran with me and according to her Garmin, our mile splits were 9:18, 7:16, 7:20 (and 6:25 pace for the final 1/10th of a mile). Since I couldn’t see much out of the suit, we opted to start at the very back of the pack. I figured it would be easier for me to pass people than to worry about getting run over at the start. I also wasn’t sure how well I’d run in costume and didn’t want to block too many people if things went south. That wasn’t the case though, and once we worked our way through the crowded first mile, it was smooth sailing. It took a while to pass the strollers and walkers, but I was dishing out high fives along the way, and it was fun to hear people cheering for the turkey. The folks in mile two and three were still encouraging, but there were a few more “I can’t believe the turkey is passing us” comments (good-natured). Without having to worry about running anybody over I was able to motor along. That said, seeing out of the costume was rough, and the close-fitting turkey head was less than ideal when my breathing became a little labored.
There were tons of cheers as I made my way down the finishing chute and then I realized something…I couldn’t just rip off the suit to get a post race drink (and more importantly, fresh air). So it was off to the van to cool down out of the view of spectators. We scooted off and I quickly took the suit off halfway to try to cool down. The only problem was I’d need to put it back on for the post race festivities and it was more than a tad sweaty. I’ll just say it was not something I was thankful for that day, but the show must go on. I was aware there was an award for the best costume, and since I knew I wouldn’t be winning an age group award for time, I was holding out hope for best costume. But before the awards ceremony, it was back to the park area for more pictures. All the people who missed me before the race we ready now, and it was non-stop. It was fun though and made time go by until the awards.
Once the age group awards were announced, it was time for the costume contest. I was up against a few other people, mostly group costumes. There was a family dressed as Santa’s helpers, a mother/daughter team dressed as pumpkin pie, and a family with matching turkey shirts (maybe another group too?). The award was going to be given based on crowd applause. The first round went well, I was cheered pretty well (enough to make to the second round) and was hoping my suave dance moves were helping the crowd cheer a little louder. The final round had me nervous, and when it was time to vote for me I began waving my arms and jumping around to incite some extra applause. Either my antics worked, or people were thanking me for posing for all the photos, because a huge cheer came out from the audience securing me the award for Best Costume! I blew turkey kisses to the audience in appreciation and claimed my reward- a gift bag of (wait for it…) Hammer Nutrition products! Sweet! I wonder if this is the first time a Hammer sponsored athlete has won a bag of Hammer products while dressed as a turkey?
A few more pictures (how many more can there be?) after the awards ceremony, and we headed back towards the van. I was stopped before reaching the van though by a sweet girl who ran across the parking lot yelling “I love you Mr. Turkey!” I guess there was time for one last picture…