Turkey Day 5K is more than just a race to its faithful | PostIndependent.com

Turkey Day 5K is more than just a race to its faithful

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Mike Vidakovich

It was late October of 1986. Jim Richmond and I had just finished our usual Friday afternoon run in the Glenwood Canyon and we promptly headed for the 50-cent-beer happy hour at the Hotel Colorado lounge for some much needed rehydration.

Following a few libations, we came to the conclusion that Glenwood needed another running race before the snow and cold of winter set in.

With Richmond being the greens keeper at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club, we had a natural fit for a cross-country style course, away from the concerns of traffic and the general annoyance of pavement.

The Turkey Day 5K was born.

Seventeen good-hearted folks showed up that first year, amid clear skies and warm temperatures.

We started the race with my dad’s shotgun, and Bob Willey and Linda Young went into the record books as the inaugural champions. To this day, Willey claims that if he would have known where the finish line was, he would have started his kick earlier and registered a faster time.

We all believe you, Bob.

Following the race, Willey officially became “Brother” Willey. He and fellow running buddy Jack Green stood on the roof of the clubhouse and loudly proclaimed to the post-race revelers the virtues of brains and experience over unbridled youth. This “Holiday Blessing” by the two has become an annual tradition, but the debate as to the validity of their message rages on through generations.

In the race’s third year, 1988, we ran out of luck with the weather. Richmond, Karen Greenwood and I sat in the clubhouse that Thanksgiving morning and watched a blizzard engulf the course with two inches of snow.

It was a windy and very cold 15 degrees, to be exact. We wondered out loud if anyone would be stupid enough to show up. When 57 diehards came to run, walk and slide through the harsh conditions, we knew that the race had become something special.

Grand Junction’s Alan Russell broke the finish line tape that day in a blistering 15 minutes and 57 seconds. Figuring that time was a little too fast under those conditions, Richmond re-measured the course prior to the 1989 race, adding a few twists and turns to get the distance up to a legitimate 3.1 miles.

After 21 years, the race has become one of the largest attended on the Western Slope ” for more reasons than simply being an outlet for exercise and competition.

As it has evolved through the years, the race has taken on a personality of its own. It might be fitting to change the name of the event altogether. The Turkey Day 5K Gathering is more of an appropriate moniker.

Most people will show up just to see, to experience, to be with, to hug and to celebrate. It’s my favorite day of the year. See you Thursday morning.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

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