Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sayre Turkey Trot 5k (2013)

Other Race Reports


My disdain for asphalt 5k’s is well known. I would not normally bother taking the time to compose a report for a race of this distance, but for the 2013 Sayre Turkey Trot I will make an exception.

My main beef with races of this kind is that there are simply too many. A glance at our local running calendar for 2013 shows 25 5k races in this county (of 65,000 people) alone, with three times that many available just a short drive away in any direction. Flat 5k’s are fine. They are a great entry level event for beginning runners, friendly to walkers, and super painful for those willing to turn themselves inside out for three miles. The real issue is the lack of variety, not only in locally available race distances, but also amongst the available 5k’s themselves. To keep this brief I’ll offer what I say to everyone who comes to me for advice about putting on their own race. If you want to put on a successful race you either have to do something different than everybody else, or do what everybody else is doing better than those who are already doing it. And furthermore, to build a healthy, balanced, sustainable running scene it is important to offer runners events that run the gamut of disciplines. Everybody says “I’m training to run my first 5k,” but without adequate chances to race at other distances, and on other surfaces, in the safety of their own community, many of those people will never venture much further than the finish line of their first 3.1. Meanwhile many experienced runners will forgo another $20 entry fee and spend their money elsewhere.

The Sayre Turkey Trot is a fast, flat 5k. It is not the only, or the first, 5k to be held on this course. But the similarities between it and these other races ends there.

Remarkably I’d only run one 5k in 2013 prior to the 7th Annual Sayre Turkey Trot. After entering more than a dozen in 2012, I more or less decided I was done with them for awhile. I’m not the type that feels the competitive need to race much. I’m content with running for its own sake, and more importantly the trails beckoned.

The Sayre Turkey Trot, however, is about something different altogether. While there are still guys up at the front running sub-16, and people of all ability levels throughout the field hoping to run their first or best 5k, the Turkey Trot is more community (and family) tradition than race. This year a record 1,300 (in a town where most races draw fewer than 100) runners, walkers (and one wheelchair athlete) - man, woman and child - braved the sunny but frigid, 18 degree Thanksgiving morning air for the biggest race our town has ever seen. As with the recent Red Baron Half Marathon (Race Report), my plan was to run with my friend Maria, rather than race at my own pace.

Maria’s most recent 5k finish came last May - a 34:03 on the same course at the 29th Annual Guthrie Gallop - before joining the Valley Running Club and running a 2:06:36 half-marathon. Without a doubt she would improve significantly on that time this morning, even under less than ideal conditions.

Our journey toward this November 28th, 10:00AM start-line begun in August when dozens of members from the VRC, our local running group, raised $300 dollars to help sponsor the race. This sponsorship put our link on the race website (here), our logo on the back of the race t-shirt, our business card in the race-packet, and culminated with our table at the very first Turkey Trot Pre-Race Day Expo and packet-pickup, where we were able to meet hundreds of local runners and give away over 100 free prizes (also donated by our members).

Despite the long build up, race day was anything but anti-climactic. Maria and I met beforehand at my house, took advantage of a family owned parking space near the start line, and kept warm until it was time to take the Valley Running Club group photo, our largest yet, in front of the bandstand in the park.

The field began to gather immediately after. I hope the local papers managed to take a decent photograph, as the mass of people stretching from the Sayre Theater all the way back to Lockhart St was a sight to see. In that sea of more than a thousand people, Maria and I lined up with a pace group in the mid-20’s to await the gun.

If I had been more concerned about running a “good time,” I might have worried about the sheer size of the field jamming things up at the start, but with minimal resistance we rolled forward, across the starting-mat and into the first flat mile down Elmer Avenue, and traffic jams were never an issue.

The first few hundred yards of a cold weather road race can be rather interesting to say the least. Feet like blocks of ice, asphalt impossibly hard, the added wind chill of one’s own locomotion. Maria and I both opted for shorts, compression socks and layered tech t-shirts. We were not the most scantily clad runners on the course, but even so we received more than our fair share of stares that screamed “you two are crazy.” But the cold was never an issue, and after the race Maria remarked that she wished she had gone with one less layer on top.

After the gun went off the rest was a formality. With absolutely no pressure from me, Maria ran progressively faster each mile, and found a burst of speed on the home stretch on her way to a strong finish and a massive 5k PR, all of this on just over 60 miles of training in November. I predict a fantastic year of racing and improvement for her in 2014, beginning with the Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k in April.

Distance: 3.02 mi
Time: 25:36
Avg Pace: 8:28 min/mi
Avg Moving Pace: 8:21 min/mi
Mile 1: 8:51
Mile 2: 8:30
Mile 3: 8:06
Garmin Report

After the race we mingled with Valley Running Club friends near the finish, cheered them on as they crossed the line, and added our applause to the throng gathered for the awards ceremony, before using the half mile back to my house as a "cool down run" on the coldest day so far in our early winter.

As I said earlier, if you want to put on a successful race you either have to do something different than everybody else, or do what everybody else is doing better than those who are already doing it. The Sayre Turkey Trot has become a gargantuan success in an otherwise undersized local running scene in only 7 short years because the folks behind the event do everything better.

-A wisely chosen race date
-Early online registration
-Enough prizes and awards to make everyone feel like a winner
-A team competition to attract family and friends
-Advertising across multiple platforms (Radio, Print, Online, Social Media)
-Efficient chip timing with the prompt publishing of results
-Helpful volunteers

But perhaps most importantly Race Director Beth Herbst is a local runner who interacts with other local runners, seeking and accepting criticism and suggestions from her audience: the runners.

1,300 runners from 25 states descended on small town Sayre Pennsylvania Thanksgiving morning for one reason and one reason only. The Annual Sayre Turkey Trot is the best 5k running event in the region. And now it is also one of the biggest.


Registration for the Sayre Turkey Trot opens each August on You can follow Sayre Turkey Trot on Facebook for updates year round or on their website. Additional info may be found at

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