What makes the Turkey Trot so much fun is that many of the participants and spectators show up in costumes. Pilgrim outfits and feathered turkeys are popular, and you’ll also see runners dressed as everything from superheroes and hockey players to gingerbread men jogging along the race course. A contest before the start of the race rewards wearers of the most creative individual and group costumes. The contestants get to show off their getups on a runway outside the Delaware YMCA.
The race isn’t just for fun, though. Entry fees and sponsorships help the YMCA to provide programs and services for families and kids who otherwise would not be able to afford them.
The 8K (about 5-mile) race begins at Delaware and Tacoma avenues and proceeds for most of its length down Delaware Avenue, finishing in downtown Buffalo. Along the way, runners pass through beautiful Delaware Park and Gates Circle, where they’ll see Canterbury Woods Gates Circle under construction.
A post-race party and awards ceremony is held at the Convention Center, where adult beverages are served and a live band plays. Alternatively, participants, families and spectators can attend a family-friendly, alcohol-free party in the lobby of Statler City.
The race is designed to encourage entries by folks of all ages and abilities, and entrants come from all over the United States and Canada, and as far away as Ireland and Australia, to participate. Awards are given in 15 age categories ranging from 14 and under to 80 and over, as well as to family and corporate teams.
Many people enter the race just for fun, but it also attracts serious runners. According to the Y, Henry A. Allison won the first Turkey Trot in 1896, out of a field of six. Gus Gressel won the race the first time he participated in 1907, and ran every year except one until he was well into his 70s. The current record was set by David O’Keefe in 1989 with a time of 23:13. Women joined the race in 1972. Victoria Mitchell, who won the overall female award eight times, holds the women’s record time of 26:21, set in 1998.
The race has become increasingly popular since its 100th anniversary in 1995, when 6,000 runners entered. This year, the Y capped entries at 14,000, and the race sold out.
An event like this is impossible to execute without lots of help, and Buffalonians turn out in force every year to participate by volunteering. The YMCA is also collecting food for the Western New York Food Bank during the month of November.
The Turkey Trot perfectly captures the quirky, fun and civic-minded spirit that makes Buffalo such a wonderful place to live. That’s why many older folks who know the city decide they never want to leave.
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