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November 15, 2015

Turkeys and hams and pies... oh my!

Next Saturday, November 21st, one of our more unique local road races will be held out at Freeman Ranch.

Hosted by the San Marcos Bluebonnet Lions Club, the Thankful Turkey 5K Run & Walk is in its 13th year. The race was created and hosted through 2005 by F.L.O.W. (Friends Lend Others Wings), a local service organization. The Bluebonnet Lions took over the event in 2006 and will be putting it on for the 10th time this year.

What makes this race a bit different than others is the awards that are given. Feeling that runners were taking home enough trophies and medals, the race organizers wanted to have an event just before Thanksgiving and award food items that might make up part of a holiday feast.

Age group winners are given awards as follows: for first place, a turkey; for second, a ham; and third place wins a pie. Overall and Masters winners receive a turkey as well as a plaque. Winners of these awards often swap their treats among themselves, depending on what they may still need for their Thanksgiving dinner.

The age groups in which the runners compete also make the race a little different. The age groups are 17 and under, 18-27, 28-37, 38-47, 48-57, 58-67, and 68 and over, so runners who race frequently may find themselves competing against different challengers.

After staging the race at the River Ridge Business Park for years, the Bluebonnet Lions wanted a new, more interesting venue for the race. Partnering with Texas State University, the race was moved to Freeman Ranch last year for the first time.

It’s a little longer drive out to Freeman Ranch than most local race venues; but runners will be rewarded with a challenging, scenic course along Fulton Ranch Road, which usually has very little traffic on it. Local runners and bicyclists often use this road for training because of the hills, the views and the sparse traffic.

Registration on race day is held in the Lodge, a ranch-style building with covered porches around most of its perimeter where runners can sit and visit before and after the race. The awards ceremony also takes place out on the front porch.

One small downside to this is that the starting line for the race is about a 0.6 mile-walk from the Lodge. Race organizers considered incorporating that 0.6 miles into the course, but a cattle guard at the main entrance to the ranch makes that option unworkable.

It’s not easy to cover a cattle guard so that runners can pass over it safely. Nevertheless, runners will find that the distance from the Lodge to the starting line offers an opportunity for a nice warm-up jog before the race, and a good cool-down trot afterward.

Stormy weather made the race’s first year at Freeman Ranch an interesting event. Thunderstorms in the early-morning hours dumped plentiful rain on the organizers and volunteers as they set up the course and set up the Lodge for registration.

During the last half-hour before the race started, there was a real question as to whether or not the race should even go on. But a quick poll of the runners who were huddling out of the rain indicated that they were ready and willing to run anyway.

Then, oddly enough, just as the runners were making their way from the Lodge down to the starting line, the rain let up. The race started and finished with only light, brief showers falling on the participants.

Then, just as oddly, as the last runners were finishing and the awards presentation was about to start, the heavy showers started up again. The runners were thankful for those large porch areas around the Lodge. But once again, the volunteers who had to pack everything up had to do so in driving rain.

As this is being written, the race is still eight days away, and the long-range weather forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of morning showers on race day. The forecast will no doubt change over the next week; but hopefully will give us better weather than last year.

Registered runners will receive a nice, long-sleeved, purple race T-shirt. Registration has been a bit lighter this year than usual, which improves a runner’s chances to also place in their age group and take home part of their Thanksgiving dinner.

The Bluebonnet Lions Club is a nonprofit community service organization that has been serving the San Marcos community for more than 25 years. All proceeds from the race will go back into the San Marcos community to benefit local and Lions’ charities and youth programs.

For more information on the race and registration information, check out the San Marcos Runners Club’s online race calendar.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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