This Thanksgiving I participated in what is now my new Thanksgiving Day tradition, an annual Turkey Trot. I woke up very early on a gorgeous fall morning and met a couple of my friends (and fellow Senor Taco Running Club members) and a large crowd of about 1200 other participants to run a couple of miles before devouring our Thanksgiving Day feasts. (And ironically, the race is held at a giant shopping mall complex called “Turkey Creek”). Mike and Amy ran the 5K race. Always wanting to push myself, I ran the 10K only a week and a half after the marathon. I actually did really well and finished a whole 6 minutes faster than I did at this race last year. (Yes, I’ve discovered that distance training does help run shorter races faster).
But, actually, I’m not here to blog about how much my pace has improved or how good it felt to get out and run before eating not one, but a total of three Thanksgiving day meals that day (including an impromptu IHOP trip with my running friends after the race). A total of two memories stood out that morning:
1. I saw a guy cheering on the sidelines wearing a shirt that read “running changes everything.” I don’t know why that shirt stood out so much to me, other than I totally believe that statement. Running has definitely taught me how to tackle all sorts of challenges set before me in life, not just pushing through more miles. My perspective has changed for the positive since I started running. I am extremely grateful that I was able to participate in the race that morning, sharing Thanksgiving with many others that probably feel similarly about running. The shirt in fact reminds me of a blog that I discovered (thanks to Runner’s World) about a guy named Ben. Ben was severely overweight and struggling with depression when he decided to take up running. He ran and ran and ran and finally was able to finish a 5K, then a 10K, half marathon, and finally a marathon and an Ironman. He continues to run, is much happier now and actually travels around motivating others to start running with his “Do Life” movement. I guess I can relate to the story a bit, and I’ve certainly motivated at least a handful of my friends to start running this year. (It was Mike’s first official 5K and he enjoyed it enough that he wants me to find him another race to run).
2. As I was driving past the remaining 10K runners on the course after finishing the race, I saw a family complete with a double running stroller, running the race together. The oldest of two toddlers was on the road running beside his mom and dad. How cool is that? What a way to spend Thanksgiving together as a family. I really wish I had gotten a picture. My family used to go hiking on Thanksgiving morning, so I can totally relate to the idea of getting the whole family out for some exercise. And though my family wasn’t there to run with me that morning, I was there with some close friends who I’d consider my family too.
But don’t think for a minute “oh poor Jessica, I bet she never gets to run with her family.” That would be completely wrong. My family is exactly why I run today today. I’m not quite sure where or how it started, but my dad’s side of the family pretty pretty much all runs. I think there are a couple of reasons for this: It’s a solitary inner-reflective sport, its a stress reliever, it seems like if your name is Kortz then you are probably super competitive (and possibly stubborn), and we all really like to eat donuts and pie.
One of my most favorite memories with my dad’s side of the family was at our family reunion about 5 years ago. First of all, just to fill you in, my family is spread out all over the country and it is a rarity that we all are together in the same place at the same time. So this reunion in itself was special. We were all in Alexandria Bay, NY for a week in the summer. I’m not entirely sure how this run started, but I vaguely remember a group of us eating pizza for lunch at a local restaurant. My cousin Ezra decided not to eat because he was going to run a bit later. Somehow that spiraled into my dad, my two uncles and my cousin Kirsten all wanting to go on a run with him. And of course, hearing that a big group of us Kortzes were all going to run together, I HAD to join in (super competitiveness kicked in) even if I had just eaten a bunch of pizza for lunch, and I hadn’t been running regularly in a couple of years. (Hey, I had still packed my running clothes…) So we met in the parking lot of the hotel where we were staying and ran through the small town of Alexandria Bay towards the highway to Keewaydin State Park. The plan was to jump in the river once we got there. The run was quite entertaining with dad and his brothers smack-talking each other and telling stories about houses and places we passed along the way. Kirsten was running a bit a head of me. Ez was way ahead of all of us. I was keeping up with the older guys thanks to my non-training and the fact that I had just eaten a bunch of pizza. I made it just about all the way to the park before my stomach really started to cramp. We all made it to the dock and jumped into the cool river. It was awesome way to end the run, so very peaceful and relaxing. So there we were, doing this solitary thing that all of us enjoy separately, but together. It was a great day.
Given their age and health issues, dad and his brothers don’t run nearly as much these days as they used to. But this love of running has been passed down to the next generation and we trek onward logging the miles. I hear that Kirsten, Mason, and Uncle Dave also ran a Thanksgiving race this year. So I’m not the only one. And Kirsten and I are planning to find a marathon that we can run together since she wasn’t able to make it to the Outer Banks marathon this year like we’d originally discussed. And even though we were missing a couple of people on our family run that day, my cousin Mason and I did get to run about 5 miles together along the Charles River in Boston this summer, which was also an awesome time. Oh and yes, our run this year was just for fun, Mason and I have also been known to be a bit competitive in the past. I distinctly remember a chicken wing eating competition between the two of us at a Ponderosa when we were about nine. He beat me by one wing (no I’m not bitter at all…) I think we ate around 50 a piece. At least that is how I remember it. Maybe one day I’ll challenge him to a rematch. Or a run…