A quilt is a good metaphor for the Western New York running community. People come together from all different circumstances to run together.
Mike Moran of Amherst took that concept literally. He now owns a quilt that consists of 30 different YMCA Turkey Trot shirts, stitched together into a single beautiful fabric.
It’s a great way to mark a Thanksgiving tradition in Western New York that stretches back for more than a century. The race will head down Delaware Ave. once again on Thursday morning; it is sold out.
“I saved the shirts over the years,” said the 82-year-old Moran. “My wife said to me, you’ve got to do something with them.”
Mike has a suspicion that wife Sylvia was merely sick of washing those same shirts for up to 30 years, but his story continues from there.
“I was working out next to a fellow in aerobics - Dennis Foster of North Tonawanda,” Moran said. “I mentioned it to him, and he said, ‘Let me see what I can do with them.’ He is a kite-maker, and makes beautiful kites - they are a stunning work of art.”
Ninety-eight hours of craftsmanship later, Foster had finished the quilt.
“He’s a real perfectionist. I’m amazed he had the will to do all that,” Moran said. “I had the shirts from 1986 through 2015, although I didn’t run last year because of a hip problem.”
Looking over the quilt is something of a time machine for the YMCA Turkey Trot, which was first staged in 1896. All of the logos are nicely displayed.
“Runners will remember the designs if they see it - the doors on Delaware Ave., the Y itself, turkeys in the window,” Moran said. “Dennis is happy how it came out.”
Several runners have had quilts made from their running shirts; it’s particularly popular among veteran marathoners. Having one made of Turkey Trot shirts is meaningful for Moran. It’s become an annual highlight of the year for him, as he took up the sport for medical reasons around 1984.
“When I was about 50, I noticed a pick-up in my blood pressure,” he said. “My son was a cross country runner, and he suggested running to lower it. I ran all that winter in the junior high gym, 24 laps to a mile. I had to do something, I was a couch potato.
“When spring came, my son told me that I had to run outside. I said I didn’t want people to laugh at me running in my shorts. He said, ‘Nobody cares but you. Go outside and you’ll never come back in.’ ”
Sure enough, Moran started running along the Erie Canal, with its soft footing, and liked it. The Turkey Trot became an annual goal, helping him to lose weight when the race approached.
Before long, Moran started to invite all of his relatives to come along and run in the race. It’s become something of a family tradition to fill Thanksgiving Day this way. They first meet at his house and caravan downtown for the Trot.
“We’ve done it so many times that we’ve got a formula,” Moran said. “We’ve got some first-timers and some old-timers. We’ve taken a picture every year of those who participated. We really turn it into a fun event.”
The racing has gotten a little slower for Moran over the years, and his age-group continues to shrink in size. But helping is the fact that he has his own personal pace-setter in Ella, his granddaughter.
“She is a sweetheart,” he said. “She did one thing one time that disturbed me - she literally ran circles around me. But really, she’s sweet and polite.
“I almost was going to quit one time when the reindeer passed me. I thought it might be time to give it up. But the race involves a lot of walking for me now.”
Afterwards, they all return to Moran’s home in Amherst and have a party after the postrace party. Sylvia is there waiting.
“Somebody has to stay home and make the dinner,” Moran said with a laugh. “My daughter helps her out. Everyone brings something, so it’s not that bad.”
• YMCA Turkey Trot, 8K, 2564 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, 9 a.m. on Thursday, 565-6000.
• Home for the Holidays, 5K, 600 Main St. in Medina, 9 a.m. on Saturday, (585) 590-0699.
• Tacky Sweater Run, 5K, 2 East Ave. in Lockport, 9 a.m. on Saturday, 438-1130.
• Amy King 5K, 9 West Summit St. in Lakewood, 11 a.m. on Saturday.
• Holly Jolly 5K, 4050 N. Buffalo St. in Orchard Park, 12 noon on Saturday, Dec. 3, 830-6713.
• GBTC Cross Country Race, Delaware Park in Buffalo, 9 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4.