'Turkey Trotters' flock together for a good cause


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Amid the Spandex-clad and game-faced runners, stretching, hydrating and leg-pumping Thursday before the YMCA Turkey Trot on the North Side, people like Rachel Brand and Kelly Tompkins were decked out in costumes and posing for photos as the race neared.

The childhood friends from Shaler decided to decorate themselves after running the Turkey Trot last year and seeing so many participants in costume. They affixed tiny bells, fuzz balls and other accoutrements to their shirts, wrote their names with adhesive sequins on their face, sewed poinsettia-shaped patches to their pants and wore Santa hats and reindeer ears.

"We're not that good of runners anyway, so we figured we might as well look good as we run," Ms. Tompkins, a freshman at Duquesne University, said.

Asked to describe their get-ups, Ms. Brand said, "Christmas threw up on us."

The annual Thanksgiving Day race kicked off with brisk morning weather as the temperature hovered near freezing with more than 6,000 participants running, walking and waddling through one-mile, five-kilometer and five-mile courses. And many, like Ms. Brand and Ms. Tompkins, were dressed for the occasion. Or if not for the occasion, for the holiday.

Friends and gym-mates Kim Zubaty, Erin Cooke, Heather Hudock and Heather Shriver formed an elaborate Thanksgiving diorama. Ms. Shriver wore a Native American costume. Ms. Zubaty donned a bright orange pullover and camouflage hat as the "hunter," chasing two turkeys -- Ms. Cooke, who wore a turkey-shaped hat, and Ms. Hudock. The latter wore a head-to-toe felt turkey costume, complete with wings that she strapped onto her back. Thankfully, it was warm, but it wasn't exactly comfortable.

"I won't go into details, but it's a little tight in certain areas," she said. No matter, she finished just nine minutes behind the first woman in the five-mile race, running a hair under 8 minute miles.

And perhaps the most confounding costumes came from Mark Washington, 31, and Josh Breto, 30, who share mutual friends. Mr. Washington, a muscular 6 feet 6 inches, wore a tiny black tutu over mesh shorts and a pair of black wings. He was dressed, he said, as a turkey.

"It's abstract!" he exclaimed. "It's art!"

Mr. Breto, too, wore a gold-and-black tutu for reasons he could not articulate.

"Why not a tutu?" he asked rhetorically. "The tutu makes me faster."

Regardless of their outfits, the runners who pounded the pavement Thursday raised money for an important cause: to support the YMCA so they can subsidize memberships for people who can't afford them along with other community outreach programming.

And it was mutually beneficial, a sort of pre-emptive redemption for the binge-eating that was likely to occur later in the day.

"I like it because I feel better about how much I'm going to eat at dinner," Ms. Strand said.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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