Andy Schachat's On the Run: Turkey trots become tradition
They don't have the history of such staples as turkey, stuffing and pie, but in a relatively short time, Thanksgiving Day road races have become a holiday tradition for a growing number of Granite Staters.
In 2012, more than 10,000 runners and walkers showed up for about 15 Thanksgiving races in New Hampshire. Bitter cold and windy conditions resulted in the numbers taking a little dip in 2013, Thursday was one of the biggest in the state's road race history nonetheless.
That is why yours truly would like to add to the tradition by presenting an annual New Hampshire Thanksgiving Day road race summary. Results for the inaugural installment are courtesy of www.coolrunning.com, www.millenniumrunning.com and www.allsportsevents.com, with additional information based on reports in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Races are ranked by size, based on the number of timed finishers. Summaries include only events for which results or a report of field size were available.
1. Seacoast Rotary Club Turkey Trot 5K (Portsmouth)
The state's largest race on Turkey Day, the Seacoast Rotary event had 2,498 finishers, led by men's winner Ryan Brady of Durham and top female finisher Lucy Garfield of Dover. This was the third year in a row that the Seacoast Rotary Turkey Trot was the largest Thanksgiving Day race in New Hampshire and the second year in a row that the number of finishers surpassed 2,000.
2. Fisher Cats Thanksgiving 5K (Manchester)
The only other race in New Hampshire with more 2,000 finishers, this third-year event had 2,369 cross the finish line inside Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The top runners were Seth Tucker of Bluffton, S.C., and Christine Shaw of Manchester. Shaw's winning time of 17 minutes 40 seconds was the only sub-18:00 performance by a woman in New Hampshire on Thanksgiving. This was also the second straight year the race exceeded 2,000 finishers.
(The Portsmouth and Manchester races also combined to create a unique day in New Hampshire road race history. Both were managed by Millennium Running, marking the first time a race management company handled two New Hampshire races on the same day with more than 2,000 finishers).
3. Greater Derry Track Club Turkey Trot (Derry)
This was the 40th annual version of the event, making it one of the oldest Thanksgiving Day races in New England. It was also the only other timed race in New Hampshire with more than 1,000 finishers (1,248). The winners: Peter Najem of Derry and Amy Bernard of Chester.
4. Windham Turkey Trot, (Windham)
This is the exception to my rule of defining races by the number of timed finishers. This is an untimed event that offers 3- and 5-mile runs. It makes the list because it defies logic. Over a four-year stretch, 2009-2012, this event has drawn more than 1,000 participants. By all accounts, this year's numbers far exceeded 1,000.
5. Great Gobbler 5K (Nashua)
On most days, a New Hampshire race with 857 finishers would be the state's largest. Not on Thanksgiving. Nashua's Josh Grant was the men's winner, and Amherst's Alexandra Varanka, the top New Hampshire female in this year's Boston Marathon, was the women's winner.
6. Lake Sunapee Turkey Trot, 5K (Sunapee)
The nicest compliment about the race was uttered a few years ago by a friend of mine. This race consistently tops over 700 finishers prompting my friend to say, "I didn't think there were that many runners in Sunapee. This year was another 700 plus year for the event with 733 crossing the finish line. At the head of the pack were two runners from New London: Josh Steffen and Megan Call.
7. Free Fall Classic 5K (Rochester)
Because of its location road races in Rochester do not draw big numbers ... except on Thanksgiving Day. The Lilac City comes alive for this event and 2013 was no exception with 587 finishers, the only other event with over 500 finishers. UNH coach Casey Carroll, currently living in Dover, was the men's winner and and Alton's Amanda Pellowe was the women's winner.
8. Wobble Gobble 4-Miler (Keene)
Keene is another location that usually holds smaller races, but 424 runners and walkers showed up for this event. The winners were Brett Mastrangelo and Anna Levene. (Results did not include hometowns.)
9. Bow Police Association 5K Turkey Trot (Bow)
One of two races in the Capital area, it just missed the 400 mark, with 399 finishers. Timothy Horan and Dayna Cline were the winners.
10. Galloping Gobbler 4-Miler (Concord)
The other Capital area race and the only other race in New Hampshire with over 300 finishers. Camden Ingersoll-Black, Concord and Allsa Barnard, Concord got to brag over their turkey dinners that they were the winners.
11. Gilford Youth Center Turkey Trot 5K (Gilford)
The home of the state's largest triathlon (Timberman) it was the host of a 228 person event on Turkey Day with David Martino taking top honors. The results do not list gender so it is difficult to determine the women's winner.
12. Merrimack Rotary 5K Turkey Trot (Merrimack)
Colin Cook and Erin Kelly were the top runners in a race that drew 181 finishers.
13. Newfound Turkey Trot (Bridgewater)
No results are available, but as reported in Friday's Union Leader, more than 200 runners and walkers took part.
Given the spirit of the day - and the holiday season in general - it is worth noting that all of these Thanksgiving races were fund-raisers, producing thousands of dollars for many worthy causes.
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Running shorts: Looking back at some recent New Hampshire races: On Nov. 24, Michael Danaher, Nashua and Vivienne Rouge, Chester won the Wolf Hollow Half Marathon in Nashua with Merrimack's Michael Day and Tori Nelson of Boxborough, Mass., winning the accompanying 5K ... Portsmouth's Andrew Huebner won the Tiger Trot 10 Miler in Hampton Falls on Nov. 23. In November, Huebner was second at the Anthem Manchester City Half Marathon then won the Seacoast Half Marathon and Tiger Trot. That's a lot of fast running for long distances in a three-week span. ... Like Santa suits? Thousands of runners will be wearing them for the Santa Clause Shuffle, a three-mile, out-and-back race scheduled to take over Elm Street in Manchester's downtown this Saturday.
Andy Schachat's column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.