By Katie Smythe
The 39th annual Alexandria Turkey Trot took place on Thanksgiving morning, winding through the streets of Del Ray and Rosemont. This year’s five-mile road race drew around 5,000 participants, a bit less than last year’s record number. As always, the turkey was one of the main attractions, riding in style in the pace car, cheering on the participants and posing for photos.
But the turkey may have been upstaged by comedian, actor and singer Chip Esten, former Alexandria resident and 1983 T. C. Williams graduate, who served as the 2014 Grand Marshal. Esten, who performed at The Birchmere on Thanksgiving Eve, was spending the holiday with family in Alexandria.
Some come to race, while others come to prove they can still run five miles or at least start and finish the course. But almost everyone comes to enjoy the start of Thanksgiving Day with neighbors, family and friends.
The Turkey Trot has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many in Alexandria and the surrounding area. A number of participants remarked that it would not be the same without starting the day with the Turkey Trot. Extended families participate – some up to four generations – with the youngest being pushed in strollers, kids running alongside parents or grandparents and others waving and cheering along the course.
The event is sponsored and coordinated by the Del Ray Business Association and DC Road Runners Club. The race always attracts a large number of elite runners and members of local area running clubs. What sets the Alexandria race apart from other Turkey Trots is that it is the only five-mile (rather than 5K) race in the area, run on a USATF-certified course.
This year the overall winner was Kevin McNab, 28, of Washington DC, who finished in 24 minutes 32 seconds, just ahead of Georgetown University senior Collin Leibold, 21, with the same finishing time. Baisa Moleta, 26, of Alexandria, finished third in 24:35.
The first female to cross the finish line was Susanna Sullivan, 24, of Falls Church, who set a new course record of 27:13, breaking the 2011 record by one second. Mahlet Melese, 24, of Washington DC took second place in 27:23, followed by Arlingtonian Julie Culley, 33, in third with a time of 24:35.
New this year was the course record for runners with dogs, established by Mike Wardian and dog Rosie who finished in 27:38. Wardian was also the top Masters finisher. Keeping in the family, Matthew Wardian was the stroller champion.
Results aside, the hats and costumes are the most entertaining part of the event. As always, turkey headgear was the most prevalent along with pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses. Colleges and sports teams were another common theme. But towering above everyone was President Woody Wilson, who also participated in this year's race.
An integral part of Thanksgiving is giving to others in need. The Alexandria Turkey Trot contributes to ALIVE! through the collection of non-perishable food items and monetary donations. ALIVE! is a local non-profit organization involving 40 religious congregations and the community working together to assist the most needy in Alexandria. ALIVE! serves 800 families per month.
The food items collected at this year’s race filled 36 boxes loaded onto two pallets, according to Donald Campbell. In addition, the Del Ray Business Association presented ALIVE! with a check for $5,000 which can be used to buy around 50,000 pounds of food.
Continue the tradition. Start making plans for next year’s 40th annual Alexandria Turkey Trot.