Turkey Chase: Victim Of Its Own Success?

The Turkey Chase Thanksgiving race keeps getting bigger and bigger. Is that too much of a good thing?

Since moving to Bethesda in 1994, the BCC’s Turkey Chase has been a family tradition.  Whether we were staying in town or heading somewhere else, we would start the day with the Turkey Chase. It’s great exercise, you can burn your calories early and feel better about stuffing yourself (pun intended) later.

Also, you could catch up with your friends and neighbors after the race.  The event had a neighborhood feel to it.

That has changed in recent years. The race brings such large numbers that parking and littering are now big concerns of those of us who live near the Y. People will block your driveway or throw water bottles on your lawn without a care or concern.

When running the 10K, it used to be crowded in the beginning, but then quickly thin out. Now, it is crowded the entire way. Most of the race takes place on Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road, where runners are squeezed onto only one lane. So you need to be in shape and have sharp elbows to do well in the race.

Then when you finish the race, the logistics have lately been awful. You can’t get out of the finish chutes, the tents have been placed to create gridlock, and it is difficult to find friends or family.

The race is sponsored by the YMCA and a major fundraiser for the Y and the Rotary Club. Both are good causes, but the goal of fundraising seems to have superseded  managing the event for the enjoyment of the participants.

To make sure that it wasn’t just a feeling that the race has become more crowded, I looked at the results pages. In 2000, 2661 runners completed the 10K. Ten years later in 2010, there were 3882 10K finishers, a 44% increase. The size of the Y field and the number of lanes available for runners have all stayed the same.  This doesn't include those doing the 2 mile walk/run.

I’ll be running the 10K on Thursday morning. Say hi if you see me. But I’ll also be evaluating whether the event has gotten too big for its own good, and whether I want to keep this family tradition going.

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Wendy November 23, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Just had a conversation with a neighbor about this--if you live near the Y, your entire Thanksgiving schedule is dictated by when your family can reasonably park, because of that race. And the Y never cleans up after itself or its racers. I used to think the Chase was cool. Now, it's just a headache--and we're not Y members as a result.
Bruce Lemieux November 23, 2011 at 02:32 PM
I've been doing this for years and will be there this year. I agree that it's now so big, and expensive for a family, that it's loosing it's charm. I'm thinking that my friends should start doing our own thing. Too bad, since this was a great event.


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