by Susan and Tom Hoerger
If you come to our Chapel Hill home for Thanksgiving, there are two rules:
1 You must participate in the Cardinal Track Club’s Gallop & Gorge 8K run at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving morning
2 You must run it wearing a turkey hat. Your hat can have the turkey who is dressed as a football referee, the turkey in running shoes or the turkey dressed as a chef. Or, you can wear one of the grandma-made crochet turkey hats off Etsy. We provide the hats, but it’s first come, first choose at our house.
It isn’t the same group of people every year. We have no relations in town. Our group is an ever-revolving set of far-flung relatives, plus whichever college or graduate students we have recently “adopted.”
Not a runner? That’s not the point – just do your best.
We’ve done this so many years now that I can’t recall how it started, but I do know why we continue. Since we have a different assortment of guests every year, being forced by your hosts to run together in the same big crowd is a good icebreaker and bonding experience. Having to wake up early to partake in a beautiful Carolina morning … now that makes you feel alive. Why the hats? To entertain the crowd sure, but mostly it is for us. It is hard to take yourself or your performance time too seriously when you are wearing a large cartoon turkey on your head. The race just feels like a big street party and a homecoming for those – like our sons – who grew up here but moved away.
This ritual is also an act of gratitude. Our entry fees go to causes that help others. Also, our family, like many, has been hit with chronic illness, and we are thankful for the ability to run, walk or just creep along. We no longer take that for granted. If you are still able to move and still able to gather around the table, then do so and give thanks.