Well, I can say it: I did it. For the first time in my life, I completed the annual YMCA Turkey Trot. Buffalo’s Turkey Trot is known to be the oldest consecutive annual footrace in North America, with 2016 being its 121st year.
I made the decision to sign up fairly early; I know it sells out (they cap it at 14,000 runners) and I was determined to do it. Sure, I said I’d walk/run more and get into better shape for it – and that didn’t really happen – but in the end, I did it, and I’m proud of myself for not giving up.
I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. I think over the course of the 4.97 miles, a lot of different things went through my head. It went something like this:
At the start line…. well, actually, about a half-mile BACK from the starting line is where my race actually began. I’m smart enough to line up behind the 10+ mile pace flag, but not at the VERY back of the crowd. With the massive amount of people running, it took me a whopping eight minutes from the time the race actually started to the time I actually crossed the start line. Wowza! By the time I started, a lot of people had already gone at least a mile, if not more.
Through the first mile or so… I was doing okay. I was walking at a decent pace, I thought, and things seemed to be moving pretty well. I was surprised at how long that first mile seemed, though. I kept thinking “Maybe I missed the marker for it!” and then eventually, the marker appeared.
The next bit… was alright. I think the hardest part was to keep reminding myself to go at my own pace, to do what was comfortable for me. It’s easy to get detracted by all those around you moving faster, but I had to know myself and what I was capable of. I can’t run; I don’t run, it’s as simple as that. Was I tempted at some point to start some kind of half-jog? Absolutely. But I didn’t, because I knew I’d be out of breath in a minute and then it would make everything after that much harder.
At one point, I was maybe roughly halfway through, and I actually saw people coming back the other way- as in, they’d already finished the race AND gone halfway back. Again, that was another moment where I could’ve had my bubble punctured, but instead, I kept going.
What I was really thankful for: the weather mostly held up. It was about 37 degrees throughout the race, and it didn’t really rain or snow, save a light drizzle for a minute. It could’ve been a lot worse, considering we’re talking about Buffalo in late November. I bundled up in a few layers and did alright for myself.
Once I hit four miles…. I was in the home stretch, but that last mile or so was absolutely the hardest. I hadn’t stopped walking the entire way, not even to get a drink of water from my backpack. I was starting to get that annoying cramp in my stomach that usually means you’re not breathing enough, and I thought I was going to have to take my first break. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but it would’ve been a huge downer for me at that point. I slowed down a little, focused on breathing deeper, and got through it.
I’ll tell you, once I saw that finish line… it was a happiness like I’ve never known, something different than what I’ve ever felt. It was a proud moment: I knew I would get there. This was my first 8K and it took me a while – I walked the entire way and took 1:34:15 – but the important thing is that I never gave up. I started strong, I finished strong, and now? I can’t wait for next year!