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125th Annual Turkey Trot continues tradition through the pandemic

Ryan Zunner

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop the YMCA from holding its 125th consecutive Turkey Trot race. A select-few lucky runners got the opportunity to take part in-person for the milestone race.

There’s nothing that says Thanksgiving in Western New York more than the annual Turkey Trot. Buffalo-Niagara YMCA Vice President Geoffrey Falkner said keeping the tradition alive in times of stress isn’t something new to the organization.

“It’s an institution. This race has survived a pandemic from 100 years ago, this pandemic, and two world wars," said Falkner. "We at The Y and over here in Western New York aren’t going to let these conditions stop us.”


Thousands of local runners and some from all over including Norway, Japan, and South Korea are competing on their own routes this weekend, but 125 who promised to raise $1,000 were randomly selected to run in-person.

Rachel McPhee of Amherst found out she’d be running her eighth Trot while at work

“I started crying on the phone to the gentleman who told me I got in," McPhee said. "I was so excited I started running around my whole office telling people I got in, I was beyond excited.”

Teacher Laura Schmidt from Getzville was also over the moon in getting the opportunity.

“It was like I won the lottery," she said. "I was at school, and I had a message on my phone from a strange number, so I listened to it after classes, and I was just yelling and clapping. I was so happy.”

Organizers didn’t run the Trot as a competition this year due to spaced out running groups, but UB student-athlete Nicholas Taboni from Tonawanda crossed first in the initial grouping in 26 minutes and 10 seconds. 

“I haven’t raced in a year because of everything with COVID, so it was my first race in awhile and I just wanted to get out there and run as hard as I could," said Taboni

Not long after, with a 31:44 time, Aileen Hoak-Lange of Glenwood, NY became the first woman to cross line this year. She’s thankful to be running in her 28th consecutive Trot.

“It’s tradition of so many families, and people, and the runners of Western New York," Hoake-Lange said. "This community is loving and supportive and strong, and it’s just nice to come together for a sense of normalcy in these certainly uncertain times.” 

The Turkey Trot serves as the largest fundraiser for the Buffalo-Niagara YMCA. Donations might be a bit lower than some past years, but organizers estimate over $160,000 raised.

Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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