Eastword column by Jim Jones: Hot to trot on a chilly late fall day

November 25, 2012 

On a chilly holiday morning, one of the last things you might expect to see is 800 runners swarming around the front gate of De Soto National Memorial.

Shouldn't they be home snug in their beds, their blankets pulled up over their heads?

But here they were, just for the fun of it, waiting for the start of the annual Turkey Trot five-mile run.

The world is of two minds when it comes to running.

Some love the feel of wind blowing through their hair.

Or if you are like hard-charging Richard Larson, 61, there is nothing like the blast of air on an aerodynamic, perfectly hair-free scalp.

Runners can't get enough of their feet pounding the asphalt, drawing in gulps of air, and questing to lower their time for a 5K or a 10K race a few seconds.

There is the race horse or greyhound syndrome. The thrill of the race, of overtaking one runner and then another.

Runners know the pleasure of the massive endorphin release, the abandonment of stress, the lowering of their blood pressure, the improvement in their thinking.

Some even suggest that rather than mental gymnastics to hold off the fearsome ravages of age on the mind, a surer way is through physical exercise.

Nonrunners just shrug and say, it's too boring, too hard on knees and hips, there are better ways to exercise. Maybe.

But I really enjoy running and hanging out with runners. And I have since I was in first grade, maybe earlier.

After the Turkey Trot, you could not have found 800 mellower, happier, friendlier folks anywhere in Manatee, all without the assistance of alcohol or drugs.

Although, I must say I did see one fellow drinking a beer after his run at 9 a.m. He had a really big smile on his face, too.

Some people love running so much that they start a local tradition.

Like Gary Algozzine, a pharmacist at Blake Medical Center for 30 years. He co-founded the Turkey Trot 15 years ago.

Gary is a hard-working fellow, and I can't imagine he ever had to work harder than he did Thursday at the Turkey Trot.

Talk about pressure. There were hundreds of runners coming through the finish gate at once, and Gary and his son Nick were pulling the runner IDs from each bib in turn, and placing them on a wire.

It gave the Bradenton Runners Club an old-fashioned, but efficient, way of recording how each runner placed. The tag at the bottom was the first finisher, followed by the second, the third and so on.

I thought that I might run the Turkey Trot this year, but my assistant photographer -- that would be my wife, Kim -- got tied up in making Thanksgiving dinner.

No complaining on my part, because dinner was great.

But I wasn't able to join the pack of runners, and had to watch enviously from the sidelines as they put their feet down, and picked them up again, over and over.

The upside was that I got to see some unique sights.

Like Lakewood Ranch High School grads Alec Bacon and Richard Wheeler running five miles while holding the Navy Jack flag. You see, both are midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

They were showing their pride as midshipman. I can't imaging running five miles and holding a big flag. That's a lot of extra resistance.

Then there was Andrew White in a turkey suit.

He was resplendent, too, with great big red wattles hanging down at the neck.

All part of the runner's spirit, and the day for giving thanks.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021, or tweet @jajones1.

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