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Storm won’t stop tenacious Turkey Trot

The 119th annual Turkey Trot, which has been run every Thanksgiving morning since 1896, will not lose its standing as the nation’s oldest consecutively run footrace despite this week’s unprecedented lake-effect snowstorm.

“We’re still going as scheduled,” said Kathy Romanowski, communications director for the YMCA of Buffalo Niagara, which organizes the race. “We may lose some people who live in those outlying areas that got lambasted with the snow. but the city thankfully didn’t get hit at the same level.”

Runners on the 8K route, just short of five miles, start on Delaware Avenue near Tacoma and head straight down Delaware, loop around Niagara Square, turn left on Church Street and again at Franklin Street, crossing the finish line at Franklin and Niagara streets.

In fact, the race faced more of a challenge after the storm began on Nov. 20, 2000, which hit three days before the race. Snow-filled city streets were clogged with abandoned cars and thousands of people spent the night in their workplaces, or left their cars to seek refuge in gas stations, supermarkets and other open businesses.

“Mayor Masiello ordered that the streets be cleaned for the race that day, and we made sure it still went on,” said Romanowski. “We’ve been very fortunate, and we still want to hold that title as best we can.”

Through the years, runners have competed in rain, sleet, snow and even the occasional warm spell. “We have had every kind of weather. I always use the slogan that we’re like the Post Office, nothing stops us, but even this storm stopped the Post Office,” said Romanowski.

The Turkey Trot has sold out every year since 2010 and this year registered the maximum of 14,000 runners.

“It’s up to the runners, if they want to truck it out there, but if it’s too cold, some of them stay home,” said Romanowski. “I think that’s why you see us sell out at 14,000, but our number of finishers is typically lower than that – not everybody shows up that registers. Not everybody can. A lot of people come in from out of town for the holidays, and if there are weather-related delays, they don’t show up.”

This year’s race is especially important because it follows the unexpected death on Nov. 15 of race director Tom Donnelly, 61, whose tireless promotion of the race for a decade was a major reason for its current popularity.

“We are going to be observing a moment of silence for him at the beginning of the race, then speaking about the loss of our friend and our race director,” said Romanowski, “We’ll be doing a tribute to him at the post-race party. We have a VIP reception on Tuesday night for all of our quarter-century runners as well as all of our volunteers, so we’ll do another program honoring him then.”