Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | November 22, 2010

Turkey Trot 10k: Running with Forrest

This past weekend, I decided to run the Lincolnwood Turkey Trot 10k on a whim, and I am glad I did, if only for the interesting mix of people I encountered. I realized as soon as I got there it was the perfect size race: not mayhem like the Hot Chocolate race, but a little more exciting than the Buffalo Run Half Marathon. A Goldilocks race: not too big, not too small. And lots of strange people.

Now before I let the snarkiness begin, a disclaimer: I respect each individual’s right to make his/her own choices regarding clothing and running habits. I know I should not be judgmental. I know it is not nice to make fun of people. Having said that, I was running this race alone and didn’t know anyone else there. That meant I had plenty of time to take in the crowds, and the crowds gave me a lot of humorous material to work with.

It began as I approached the start and saw a group of about 30 runners doing warm-up exercises. They seemed to have a good routine, so I moved closer to join them. As I got there, however, I realized that they were not speaking English. The coach in the center shouted something I couldn’t understand, and they all dropped to a right side lunge. He yelled something, they all switched to the left. He shouted something else and they all dropped into a hamstring stretch. It reminded me of my feeble attempt to do aerobics in Vietnam, an entertaining but confusing experience. I thought it would be fun to join in and try to follow the non-English instructions, but then I had visions of the coach calling security to escort me away. I decided just to do my own warm up routine, far away from the group.

As race time approached, I entered the start corral and looked down to see that I was behind IM70.3 Tattoo Guy! I had seen a guy with the same large black-and-red tattoo at the Bucktown 5k back in October. It had to be the same guy, right? Really, how many people would think to get a 70.3 tattoo?  I am not saying a Half-Ironman isn’t a huge accomplishment, but it’s more bumper-sticker-worthy rather than tattoo-worthy, in my opinion. After all, I did it, so how hard can it be? Anything that can be done by me, a rapidly aging and very mediocre athlete, can’t be much to write home about, much less write on your body. Of course, perhaps for this guy it was tattoo-worthy. Maybe he WON the Half-Ironman. In that case, more power to him. Heck, if I ever win a Half-Ironman, I’ll get a massive 70.3 tattoo on my calf. Really.

The start horn blew and Tattoo Man took off at a fast clip, leaving my disdain for his body markings in the dust. Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t be so critical of people’s tattoo choices and focus instead on improving my speed. But at least I was keeping myself entertained.

The course began winding its way through the village of Lincolnwood. There were smatterings of spectators, including a cluster of 30 people standing in complete silence. No applause, no cheers, just blank smiles. I wondered if perhaps there was a local monastery whose inhabitants came to watch despite of their vow of silence. Or perhaps they were mute. Maybe they were just really, really introverted. Or maybe we were such inspiring runners, we left them speechless. In any case, their silent smiles were a little disconcerting and I was slightly relieved when I had passed them.

As the pack of runners thinned out, I began searching for someone to pace me. I need a pacer because if left to my own devices, I will start looking around, admiring the scenery, gazing at the birds flying overhead. I get completely distracted and may even stray off the course. Following someone is a much better strategy. Plus, it allows me to spend quality time observing the people around me.

The first candidate for my pacer was a woman running in compression shorts and a jog bra. That’s all. (Well, shoes too). I quickly dubbed her Woman Who Might Want to Consider Putting on a Shirt. Again, before you flame me, see my above disclaimer that yes, anyone can wear what they want and I shouldn’t be so judgmental. But still, she really should think about wearing a shirt. Maybe 20-30 years ago, running in just a jog bra was a good idea, but she was substantially older than me (and I am no spring chicken), and in my opinion, her jog-bra-only days had passed. Not to mention it was cold. For a while I ran behind Woman Who Might Want to Consider Putting on a Shirt (WWMWTCPOAS), but it was challenge to stay behind her without getting an eyeful. What’s more, she was going just a tad too fast for me. I fell back a little.

I found myself following Guy Who Swings His Arms Enthusiastically, who had a nice even pace. Unfortunately, all that arm swinging was a little distracting. He swung them REALLY HIGH in front, and then REALLY HIGH in back. I stayed with him for a while, but the massive arm-swings got a little irritating, and he was making some strange noises, so I moved ahead of him.

I kept looking around for the right candidate to follow. Fortunately, Gear Addict arrived just then. She was a petite little thing with every running accoutrement known to man. She had the Newtons, the calf sleeves, the arm warmers, the technical shirt, the iPod arm band, the hydration belt, the Garmin the size of Texas. You name it, she was sporting it. She made an excellent candidate for my pacer, so I tucked in behind her.

Just then, however, a guy fell in step beside me. I glanced down and noticed he was wearing street shoes. Upon second glance, I realized  he was dressed not in running clothes, but in a pair Khaki shorts, like the kind you get at LLBean. I think he even had a belt. He topped it with a simple gray cotton shirt. What the heck was this guy’s deal? Was he on his way to breakfast and accidentally got caught up in the race? As I looked closer, I realized he had huge bulging calves of steel. He may be dressed like he’s on his way to the mall, but clearly, he’s a runner…a runner who thinks nothing of doing a 10k race in a pair of Khakis. I felt like I was running with Forrest Gump.

For a long time I stayed with Forrest and Gear Addict, who were running side by side, an interesting juxtaposition. Then a gal came up behind us wearing a turkey hat. Not a hat with a picture of a turkey on it, but a hat shaped like a turkey. A roasted turkey. With its legs tied together.

Whats more, up ahead I saw a woman wearing a full-length gray leotard with thick pink leg warmers and a pink headband. The theme to Flashdance involuntarily popped into my head. And trust me, that is not a good thing. Once you hear “What a Feeling!” it’s almost impossible to get rid of it. Like head lice.

So there I was, with “What a Feeling!” echoing in my mind, running along behind Forrest Gump, Gear Addict, Roasted Turkey Hat, and Flashdance Gal. I would have given a kidney in exchange for a camera. I didn’t even have my phone to snap a shot. I made sure I kept pace with them, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run with a group like that.

Unfortunately, Flashdance Gal faded fast, much like the Flashdance phenomenon itself. Turkey Hat had a quick pace (trying to flee the oven, perhaps?) and almost immediately moved ahead. I stayed with Gear Addict and Forrest for most of the race, with Guy Who Swings His Arms Enthusiastically behind me, still making slightly disturbing sounds.

At one point, out of nowhere, I caught a stale pungent odor and looked to my left to see (and smell) Guy Who Clearly Had Too Much To Drink Last Night. He looked like hell, his hair mussed, his face pale. He passed me quickly. Apparently whatever he’d been drinking worked as carb loading.

Forrest was plugging along, starting to put a bit of space between himself and Gear Addict. As we got to mile 5, Gear Addict stopped to walk, proving that you can buy every gizmo out there, but they won’t make you any faster. Forrest was pulling away. It was just me and Guy Who Swings His Arms Enthusiastically.

As I approached mile 5.5, however, I looked ahead to see my old friend, Woman Who Might Want to Consider Putting on a Shirt! What a nice surprise! Naturally, I didn’t want to stay behind her for too long, since she still needed to put on a shirt, so I picked up my pace to pass her. I continued to cruise along, crossing the line at 55:40, a sweet 4-plus minute PR. And not only was it a PR, but it was the most interesting mix of people I have seen in a long, long time.


  1. Sue, I love your race reports! You are hilarious. I wish you would race every weekend, just so that I could read your race reports!

    • Thanks Katie! Racing every weekend just to write about it does sound kinda fun…

  2. LMAO!! I love all the silliness at a race. Hopefully the expected rain on Thursday here won’t keep the silly people from showing up to our turkey chase.

    • I hope that you, too, have a chance to run with someone like Forrest. Forgot to mention that he totally beat me. You could even say he kicked my buttocks.

  3. I clicked. I read. I snorted I was laughing so hard. I’m not really sure what else to say other than I love your blog. 🙂

  4. Haha, funny race report. Congrats on your PR! Nice! good way to pick pacers to keep you moving. 😉

    • Thanks Sheila! I certainly had a lot of interesting people to be my pacers….

  5. I once told an interviewer you are my favorite blogger. I think she expected me to say it was the Huffington Post. I should send it to said interviewer to prove my point. HILARIOUS post, Sue!! It makes me miss you so much!

    • Thanks Chanthana, you just keep driving traffic to the blog and when I ink that book deal I will be sure to give you credit, okay? 😉

  6. do you think forrest was really george?

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chanthana Tsai, Joey Jao. Joey Jao said: Great and funny race recap from @suegelber! A must read:Turkey Trot 10k: Running with Forrest: […]

  8. Dear 4+MPR,

    You put the i in EPiC!

    – Forrest and Jen-nay

    • Dear Forest and Jen-nay, Thank you! (that made me laugh out loud, Richard!)

  9. Sue, I truly enjoyed this. I wish that I could have experienced this with you! This is something that you couldn’t make up … too much fun! At least it will not be forgotten!!! =)

    • Thanks! You are correct, it’s definitely something that will not be forgotten, no matter how much I try. And from now on I am running with a camera, just in case I see Forrest and Flashdance gal again!

  10. I did the same run and I love your descriptions. By the way, the girl with the roasted turkey on her head as she was crossing the finish line some guy yelled out nice drumsticks

    • “Nice drumsticks” – that is a good one. It was a fun race. Not IMAZ, but our own little Chicago version of a championship race. Sort of. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  11. […] remarkably normal. Huh, well, what’s fun about normal? Where are all the crazies I saw at the Turkey Trot last November? I needed some entertainment. There was one guy in costume, but he was a little […]

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