For some people, it’s the Allentown Art Festival. For others, it’s the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
But for me, no once-a-year event in Buffalo is better than the Turkey Trot, the oldest continually held road race in the United States.
The 117th version will get under way at 9 a.m. Thursday, and for the second straight year, organizers had to cut off registration, this time at 14,000. Some of the participants will be making their inaugural 8-kilometer run downtown on Delaware Avenue. For their sake, I’ve prepared some frequently asked questions with answers:
Why is this event so popular?
My theory is that it represents everything that’s right about Western New York. Family and friends gathered in one place, tradition, a healthy activity that can be done by young and old, a brisk autumn morning and the joy we all feel as the holiday season approaches.
Don’t they give out free beer at the end?
What’s your point?
What’s the party like afterward in the Convention Center?
In a word, awesome. Thousands of people jammed together talking, laughing, eating and drinking and trying to be heard above the blasting classic rock songs. Call it the World’s Second-Largest Disco, only for this one, you’re supersweaty when you walk in.
Can you put into perspective just how much this event has grown?
In 1981, the person who came in 1,000th finished ahead of 69 people; last year, the person who came in 1,000th finished ahead of 10,881 people.
How far is 8 kilometers?
Why don’t they just make it an even 5 miles?
Because runners love the metric system. Besides, I don’t hear anyone complaining about not having to run those final three-hundredths of a mile.
What advice would you give to a first-timer?
Watch where you’re going. While you may think of this as a “race,” a lot of people think of it as a “stroll,” which is fine, unless you’re running and they’re in front of you.
Costumes: Yes or no?
For the most part, I love them. The turkey train outfit is my favorite. In fact, I like anything with a Thanksgiving or Christmas theme. I could do without the guy who runs in what appears to be a Speedo bathing suit, sneakers and nothing else, but who am I to judge?
How do I get back to the starting line in North Buffalo?
Shuttle buses are provided before and after the race, or you can have a loved one meet you downtown and drive you back. Believe it or not, some people drive to the finish line before the race, leave their car nearby, then jog back to the start and run the race, thus proving that runners are not normal.
I’m not running, but I want to see the winners at the finish. Anything special I should know about that?
Yes. Sometimes when people run as hard as they can for almost 5 miles, it has an effect on their digestive system. Put another way, some people leave everything on the course, including their breakfast, so if you’re wearing shoes you really like, stay back.
What’s the best part of the race?
I would have to go with that moment when you hit the railroad underpass near Linden Avenue and everyone yells “WOOOOO!” at the same time.
Do I have to yell “WOOOOO!”?
You won’t be able to help yourself.