Thanksgiving traditions are unique to every family. For some, the day of turkey may include watching either the Lions or Cowboys on TV after a splendid meal. For others, a hike in Borderland may be on the agenda. However, over 500 local residents annually add the Tiger Turkey Chase to their entourage of festivities.
Started several years ago by George Harrington as a way to raise funds for the growing cross-country program, the Tiger Turkey Chase has grown into one of the largest and best-run Thanksgiving road races in the South Shore. Mr. Harrington is a general in the United States Army and father to five Oliver Ames Cross Country athletes.
"George is one of the finest people I know," says Neil Levine, who converses back and forth with the esteemed man of Easton. "In addition to starting this, he founded the Cross Country Boosters and started the indoor track program. All five of his kids were captains of the cross country team. Two of them went to West Point. He is a Vietnam Veteran, tough as nails, and a value driven guy."
Since the proceeds benefit the cross-country team, you can bet that the majority of volunteers are OAXC athletes. Because there are over 120 of us, there is never a shortage of friendly help either. This will be my third year volunteering at the Tiger Chase, and I expect this year to be the best yet. To give you a glimpse of my day as a volunteer, I show up about an hour before race-time to help out with various odd-jobs and maybe grab a bagel for breakfast. Then, I group together with some friends and head out on the course to cheer at designated points. Or, instead of cheering, I direct parking early in the morning. Either way, I have fun watching and talking to runners of all shapes, sizes, and ability levels. No later than ten, I'm out of there along with everybody else, ready to give thanks for the rest of the holiday.
The course itself is a fast and flat five-mile loop that circles the high school. Before and after the race, participants are treated to numerous goodies that range from snacks to memorabilia. Also, winners of age-group categories earn themselves a large turkey. Perhaps it is the most welcome way to reward the hard effort given out on the race-course.
Of all the reasons to participate in this event, the best one is the race atmosphere. You get a sense of belonging no matter if you are a regular racing warrior or just trying to burn off the calories you'll consume later in the day. Since it starts relatively early, it's over before you know it, and you can go home in time to cook up some of your traditional recipes. It's also a way to reconnect with the Oliver Ames' cross-country alumni you haven't seen in a while. In a sense, this is like our homecoming.
Any rules I forgot to mention? Oh yeah, remember never to call the race a turkey "trot." It's a Tiger Chase. That's Mr. Harrington's one request, and I wouldn't challenge him on it.
Other than that, it's time to lace up your racing flats! I'll see you out there!