Ode to the Turkey Trot

Every Thanksgiving I’ve spent in Portland I’ve made the trek across the Columbia River to take part in Vancouver’s Clark County Turkey Trot. Thinking back on what initially drew me to this event in 2009 as a newly married college grad, it might have been the enticing low entry fee. What I found at the event was a festive small town vibe, a flast course (okay, that was me trying to type flat and fast at the same time. I left it because it kinds of works, right?), and an emphasis on the spirit of giving with 100% of the race proceeds going to the local food bank. The organizers stressed that it’s meant to be a FUN 5K and 10K, though they still invited faster runners to the front and offered small awards to the top finishers.

That first year, I went out fast and ran an all time best of 19:07. And I won! I was exhilarated. André came with me to cheer me on and take photos. Then we went home and prepared our first Thanksgiving feast ever. It was the beginning of new traditions.

Clark County Turkey Trot 2009.jpeg
Clark County Turkey Trot 2009
Thanksgiving 2009.jpeg
Thanksgiving 2009
thanksgiving josiah liz andre.jpeg
Had to dig deep in the facebook archives for this one. Me with Andre (right) and my brother-in-law Josiah.

The next year in 2010, we went back to Vancouver, this time with my mother-in-law Elizabeth, and we both ran the Turkey Trot. That time I placed second but I ran a new personal best of 19:00. And again, we went home and prepared a magnificent Thanksgiving meal.

Side by side with my college track teammate Randy. He lost his life to cancer less than three years later. I’m glad we could share that moment.
Clark County Turkey Trot 2010.jpeg
Clark County Turkey Trot 2010
Thanksgiving 2010.jpeg
Thanksgiving 2010

Somehow, six years flew by and it took me that long to return to Clark County on Thanksgiving Day. Some years André and I were traveling, last year we were on tour with RAC, and I think another year we were home but I might have been injured and unable to run. Regardless, 2016 rolled around and I was ready for my Clark County Comeback.

This time one of my besties Shasta joined me for the 5K. André and Alex, Shasta’s boyfriend were on cheer duty and puppy duty as Alex and Shasta were puppysitting for the holiday. It was cold, it was wet, it was the pacific northwest at its best on Thanksgiving Day. Shasta and I went out pretty fast with a good small group, mostly men, hitting the mile mark right around 5:55. The effort felt relaxed and I felt light on my feet. It had been a few months since I’d run so fast. I was having fun! After the turn around at the halfway point, I lost most of my group because many continued on as they were running the 10K distance. I was pretty much alone at that point. There were one or two men ahead of me. My breathing was getting more labored. I was getting tired. There were hundreds of participants going out the way I’d come that I had to dodge on the way back as were sharing only a bike path. I splashed through some mud puddles. Some participants cheered for me as I went by and I smiled and waved. I had definitely eased up on the pace, and looking back I could have been a little more tough. But I wasn’t feeling tough. It was Thanksgiving Day and I was happy to be out there and happy to be in the lead. I zipped around the final corner to the finish, smiled at the volunteers and spectators clapping and cheering me in, and crossed the line in 19:24. Shasta finished soon after in 19:48, close to (if not) a personal best!

So close to the finish!
Alex cheering on Shasta
Team Lurz and Sheesta
Found my Volée teammate Angela at the finish. She ran a new personal best of 25:48!

Per tradition, even with the six(!) year hiatus, we went home, dried off, and made a spectacular Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving 2016.jpeg


thanksgiving feast 2016.jpeg


2 responses to “Ode to the Turkey Trot”

  1. Leslie @ TriathleteTreats Avatar

    So fun!!! Congrats!!! What a race and what a tradition!! You looked so young in the 09/10 pictures. Not that you don’t still look young but really young!! :)

    1. Liz Avatar

      Thank you! Haha, I can’t believe how long ago that was! It doesn’t feel like it!


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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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