A few oddly attired athletes stood out amidst the sea of Lycra-limbed runners warming up for the start of the 109th annual Turkey Trot in North Buffalo early Thursday.
It was the requisite turkey headgear, and even a group of clever girls in reindeer costumes tethered to a rope. However, none of these appeared more outrageous than the two underdressed college students shivering in skimpy track shorts and running T-shirts.
"We really need to turn up the heat," said Andy Forma of Elma, rubbing his bare arms between occasional jumping jacks.
Forma, an Erie Community College student, and Christopher Layton of the Town of Tonawanda, a Buffalo State College student, are veterans of the 5-mile race for charity. They insisted Thursday morning's bitter chill would wear off shortly after the race got under way.
They were among an estimated 6,500 runners, young and old, from the avid to the inexperienced who swelled three blocks of Delaware Avenue from Tacoma to Hertel avenues about an hour before the race started. Rosa Scrivani of Kenmore, her sister, Petey Roberts of Amherst and their friend, JoAnn Matteliano, also of Amherst, dressed comfortably in layers to keep the cold at bay.
"You should dress as if it's 10 degrees warmer than actual. As you heat up, you can begin peeling off layers," said Scrivani, who has participated in the Turkey Trot for over a decade.
Brothers Terrence and Michael McDonnell and their brother-in-law Timothy Godzich are all veteran Turkey Trot participants, too. Aiming to prepare the next generation of runners, the McDonnell brothers brought along their children, Michael and James, both 10, Joseph, 12, and 13-year-old Eileen to take part in their first Turkey Trot. Warmly dressed in layers, each vowed to run the entire race without walking.
"It's cold, but at least the wind will be at our backs," said Godzich.
Only the lightest trace of snow was evident on a few cars and low-growing shrubs.
The weather, no matter how cold, has never impeded the race down Delaware Avenue from Shoreham Parkway to the Buffalo Convention Center, said race organizer Thomas Donnelly.
"Even when we had that big snowstorm a few days before Thanksgiving (in 2000), the city did everything to clear the road in time for the race. This is a major Buffalo event and the city is proud of it," said Donnelly.
He estimated that almost 6,500 runners, each of whom paid $18 to $35 to enter, took part. Proceeds benefit programs at the Delaware YWCA.
When all was said and done, Todd M. Witzleben, formerly of Orchard Park and now of Glendale, Calif., was first across the finish line at 24 minutes and 25 seconds. Jacy Christiansen, of Greenville, Pa., was the first woman to cross the finish line at 30 minutes and nine seconds.