Preparing for the Turkey Trot

In Buffalo, we usually brag about things like unhealthy food and beer and talk smack about football and hockey. But there’s another way in which we can talk proud and eat at the same time — the YMCA Turkey Trot. The race began in 1896 and we like to think of it as the oldest continuously held race in North America. I’m not sure of the veracity of that statement, but it has a long history and has grown to 13,200 runners. It attracts runners of all ilk along with walkers and participants linked together to form costumed centipedes which shuffle along the rout. Seasoned local vets run the race along with newbies. It’s one big running party.

Races on Thanksgiving morning have become  popular, at least as judged by the number of my friends and acquaintances on Facebook who have noted they are running in Turkey Day events across the country. (A scientific sample, no doubt.) It’s a great way to start the holiday and a way to keep connected to being active during the hectic season. If you don’t have a local Turkey Trot or missed the registration, consider doing your own unofficial event with your family and friends around the neighborhood. Big, small or makeshift, here is some food for thought as you prepare for your morning run:

Run with gratitude. During each mile or kilometer (your choice) think of something you’re grateful for. Think of the ways in which it brings you joy and has made a difference in your life. Change to something else you’re grateful for at the next distance marker.

Run with flexibility. Go ahead and pick a race goal, whether it’s to finish in a certain time or to stick with your friend who is new to running and needs encouragement. But unless you have been specifically targeting this as a goal race, cut yourself some slack. Appreciate that you are out there and participating and be willing to turn off your watch or change up your goal time if need be.

Run with intention. Make the morning a chance to connect to something that is really important to you. Perhaps your intention is to have a great time with family and friends. Perhaps your intention is to continue (or begin) a healthy lifestyle. Whatever it is, run with a purpose. And remember, intention and purpose don’t have to be “serious.” Run with the intention to play outside!

And a post-race note. Many times I’ve been in conversations where people talk about running the race in the morning as way to eat more at the Thanksgiving Dinner table. If I’ve run 8K in the morning I’ve earned an extra helping of mashed potatoes and a third slice of pie, right? I’ve previously fallen into that line of thinking myself, becoming incapacitated by stuffing or out-eating my brother in number of servings of dessert. Here’s the thing: I no longer link my Turkey Trot race with my food intake later in the day. Oh, I will choose to eat stuffing and potatoes and apple pie. But I’m getting away from thinking that I’ve “earned” it. A few weeks ago, I stumbled across the saying: Don’t reward yourself with food. You are not a dog. Chew on that for a while. I’m making choices, not giving myself rewards. And that subtle shift in thinking can make a huge difference in the way I approach healthy eating not just in the moment but in the grand scheme of my life.

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