When 14,000 runners dash nearly five miles from North Buffalo to the streets of downtown on Thanksgiving morning, they’ll participate in a tradition that goes all the way back to 1896. No event – not even two world wars or ferocious storms – has ever caused the Turkey Trot to be canceled.
Race director Tom Donnelly tells The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer all 14,000 entries were sold out 18 days before the race. Donnelly also talked about runners’ zany costumes and the origins of one the region’s largest holiday events. Here is a summary of an interview that is part of the “In Focus” series. Watch the full interview above.
Meyer: The Turkey Trot has the Boston Marathon beat by five or six months in terms of longevity. Do you think that this longevity contributes to the number of folks who come here from out of town to run?
Donnelly: I think it helps. But I really think that the people who come back to town ... it’s a lot of kids coming back from college. It’s a lot of families who may live out of town now, but they come home to visit parents, grandparents. And they’ve always done the Turkey Trot, so it draws the people together to one big festival that’s held at the convention center right after the race.
Meyer: How has this race evolved over the years?
Donnelly: It hasn’t changed a lot. At the very beginning, way back in the 1800s, it was a cross country race. It was still five miles, which is 8K essentially .
It used to be a handicap race, which means that everyone was given a certain time and then sent out at varying times. You raced based on your prior performance so that the scratch runner would be the last one to leave. After that, it became what you know now.
Meyer: You have (runners) of all ages.
Donnelly: We’ve had competitors in their 90s, and we’ve had kids that are just teens or younger.
Meyer: It’s also an opportunity for many thousands of people to extend the Halloween season. You have so many costumes in this race, it’s almost a parade of sorts.
Donnelly: Over the years, it’s become sort of a “let it all hang out” tradition for a lot of people. Be as creative as they can. And we see some creative costumes. This year – the last two years – we’ve had a contest for the best costumes. an award that we actually give for first, second and third for the best costumes.
Meyer: How about the most unusual?
Donnelly: There’s always something different every year. I’ve seen a group going as Raiders of the Lost Ark, a woman running as a kitchen sink, you name it. It’s everything – as the kitchen sink would imply.
Meyer: You had 14,000 runners last year, which was up about 800 from 2011. How many runners will be participating this time around?
Donnelly: We’ll have 14,000. We capped it at 14,000 because that’s a capacity issue for us.
Meyer: In terms of the after-party?
Donnelly: Yes. What we can hold in both the convention center and at Statler City for the after-parties that we have.
Meyer: Do you see any changes on the horizon for this tradition?
Donnelly: No, I don’t really. I think it has been so successful the way it has been held ... I really don’t see anything, other than larger capacity. If we ever had a bigger convention center, we could certainly grow the race.