It's Turkey Day in a few days! I love Thanksgiving because it truly is a day I like to reflect on my good fortune, be with my family, and do some serious eating. Runners all over Ohio will be getting up early to do their favorite Turkey Trot as the perfect calorie burning prelude to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.
I'm going to be running the 15th annual Homerun for the Homeless for the fourth year in a row. This race holds a special place in my heart because it's the first race I ever ran and helped fuel my new running obsession. The race is organized by Gennesaret which is an all volunteer non-profit organization which provides housing and nutritional support to needy area families. http://www.gennesaret.cc/
The 4 mile race starts in downtown Akron near the Balch St. gym and the Krispy Cream donut shop, winds through the scenic gentle undulating hills of Glendale cemetery and finishes up in a residential area of Highland Square. The course is not considered an easy one and to keep costs low, there are none of the typical runner goody bags and any post race refreshments, if any, are donated by generous area businesses. Area businesses also furnish the post-race age group awards, but I've never stayed for these. Many runners are hard-pressed to get home and start meal preparations or get on the road to familily destinations.
The first year I ran this race, I had just started running 3 months previous and had worked very hard to work up to running 4 miles at one time. I had no idea what to expect from a race and was mystified and curious about the whole racing thing. My brother in law was going to run with me and, ironically, hasn't run a race since, yet for myself-- the Homerun for the Homeless marked the beginning of a whole new lifestyle. This race draws a huge core of the running community-nearly 800 runners will come out early Thanksgiving morning, pay their 15 dollar fee, and earn themselves the ability to take in several hundred extra calories while helping area disadvantaged families. Now that's a win-win situation! Standing in that crowd of runners for the first time is an experience I won't soon forget. It was the first time I was surrounded in sea of shapely runner legs. It was unbelievable sight-seeing. You just can't get this experience at the local K-Mart or even in the middle of summer at your local swimming hole!! Runners sure have nice legs and it's a marvel to see so many of them all at once--stretching, hopping up and down generating heat and getting otherwise ready to run! I was beyond exhilarated during the race even though my lungs felt like they were going to bust. I had some Howie Day song going through my head, Perfect Time of Day, to distract myself from the pain. Interestingly, this is a song about dying. My legs felt like lead. I finished my first 4 mile race in 39 minutes flat. That was a 9:45 pace and I was thrilled. It was difficult for me but I felt such a great sense of accomplishment. I meant to improve on that and I certainly have. The following year I ran it a full minute faster pace of 8:45.
Last year was a very notable race for the Homeless. Ohioans can recall that we had a premature blast of winter the week prior to Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day dawned like a scene out of Siberia- sideways snow generating wind-chills below 20 degrees. The drifing snow made driving conditions treacherous, so I could imagine what the course must be like. My non-running friends knew I planned to run on Thanksgiving and they assumed the race would be canceled with such inhospitable conditions. What? Cancel a race? I have yet to see a race canceled--for any reason and certainly not for weather. Still, I thought this horrible weather is certainly going to keep some people at home. That would be unfortunate since this is the only fundraiser that Gennesarat conducts. Surely, the Homeless would be getting less this year due to this untimely blast of winter. My husband and I were pre-registered and we already made arrangements for the kids, so we decided to go ahead. On the way to the race site--I don't think we passed a single other car, and the whirling drifts of snow made the scene somewhat otherworldly, yet as we neared the Gennesarat building we could see lines of runners streaming out the door waiting to register. You had to admire the tenacity of these runners to come out in spite of the dreadful conditions! Yes, runners are crazy and I think they're pretty darned proud of that fact. In fact, the weather didn't keep anyone away and was the largest turnout in the history of the event.
The course was dreadful and the section through the cemetery was a slushy mess. The snow never let up the entire race. It was sideways and relentless. I couldn't see at all and just had to take off my glasses and sacrifice some distance vision. My eyelashes were frozen and my bangs had frozen into three clumps of ice that kept banging on my face. It was difficult running, but I was loving it. Once I came through the finish line I marveled at the specter of ice-glazed runners smiling to the finish. What a neat thing!