Turkey Trots v. Marathons: The David and Goliath of Running

“David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time,” according to Malcolm Gladwell in a gobsmacking brilliant New Yorker piece and his New York Times best-seller David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.  Gladwell (my fellow Fifth Avenue miler and from this picture, apparently my new best friend) goes on to explain the secret to David’s success, the secret that is employed by a remarkable range of combatants in his work, a from a middle school girls basketball team to Lawrence of Arabia.  It’s playing by your rules, not the rules of Goliath.

A couple weekends ago, I was at the Goliath of running:  The New York City Marathon. It’s a massive, sprawling love fest of pageantry and logistics on a scale that is almost inconceivable: about 50,000 runners set out across the Verrazano Bridge to take part in a sport that is essentially something you learn by the time you are two years old: running and not falling down.

And in exchange for all the spectacle of running with 49,999 of your closest friends, you receive a credit card bill like the ones being sent to Kerry Close of Money magazine. She added up up how much it cost her to run NYC this year: $1,057.50– and that’s with only $10 in transportation costs and no hotel costs, since she lives right in the metro NY area. Imagine if you had to add a flight and a couple nights of hotel and cab rides to that total.

Silly Paddington. You don’t need to run New York to participate in running’s biggest weekend.


Which brings us to realization that even that Goliath marathon, broadcast on national television and covered by every major sports network reaching billions of people across the world, can’t beat David.  And David is a turkey.

For the single biggest running day of the year isn’t the New York Marathon, or Chicago or Boston.  It’s not the Peachtree.  All those races have the expos, the promotion, the goodie bags, the headlines and the elite runners.  But the biggest event of all is the humble Turkey Trot that is  probably taking place in your zip code next weekend.  That turkey trot is bigger because it plays by its own rules– local, dedicated and much simpler than a big city marathon.  Run and don’t fall down.  And yes, if you have to wear a pilgrim’s hat, by all means be Miles Standish proud, congratulate me.

Thanksgiving weekend is now the single largest racing weekend of the calendar year.  RunningUSA reports that 901,753 of you finished a Thanksgiving race last year.   (Can the Million Mashed Potato March be far off?).   Simple, close to home, boiled down to the essence of why many of us run: to enjoy our bodies, the fresh air and the company of others.   And perhaps to work up an appetite– or burn off a little of that appetite’s side effects.

RunningInTheUSA.com lists 1,459 Thanksgiving-themed races this month.  Find one near you by clicking here.

Runner’s World highlights some of the better known ones here, including the nation’s longest consecutively run Thanksgiving race in Buffalo, NY,  started in 1896.  That will be held not far from where I’m guessing that alumni and friends of my beloved Notre Dame High School of Batavia, NY will gather for their completely informal, off the beaten path tailgate and turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning this year (see photo below), as always.

Wherever two or more are gathered, there is reason to run. Feel free to photoshop out the Santa hats and insert turkey headdress. This was from last year’s Jingle Bell Jog.

Of course, the popularity of the turkey trot has not escaped race organizers, and now there are as many as 13 races that have more than 7,000 finishers, according to RunningUSA.  But no worries, even if a Goliath or two emerges from this field, David will always win.

So get out there and run.

Your felt roasted turkey hat is your smooth stone, and your running shoes are your slingshot.  Gobble one up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s