“I was up at 4 a.m., setting up the 5K course and there were torrential rains,” said Turkey Trot race organizer David O’Connell. He and his fellow organizers worried that there would be a light turnout for this seventh annual run because Pacific Palisades residents treat rain as a “snow day.”
But by 8 a.m., the rain had stopped. It was cool and overcast, and suddenly the Palisades High Stadium was crowded with people picking up numbers and preparing to run. “Everyone is coming out of the woodwork,” O’Connell told Circling the News.
Former “Good Day LA” reporter Dorothy Lucey was the race announcer and she told runners that “There are 1,600 gift bags you can pick up.” Reminded that that they were supposed to pick them up after the race, she quipped “Oh, they have to run to get a gift bag?”
Asked how she was persuaded to come out so early on Thanksgiving morning, Lucey said that she was good friends with O’Connell’s wife, Sandi Taylor. “She promised me it wouldn’t rain,” Lucey said and added, “I always say I’m going to run, but I never have.”
Paul Revere sixth grader Sage Denham sang the National Anthem and then David Houston, dressed as an oversized turkey, hopped on the moped and led the runners around the track and onto the course that transverses the Asilomar bluffs.
Thomas Fitzpatrick won the 5K in 16:30, bettering his last year’s winning time of 16:54. That time tied the course record, which was set in 2016 by Ramin Razavi.
“The weather ended up being perfect,” Fitzpatrick said and admitted he had waited till Thanksgiving morning to enter the Trot. “The temperature was perfect.”
Fitzpatrick, who lives in Santa Monica, said that people along the race came out on porches to cheer on the runners. He attended Fairfield College in Connecticut and is a senior associate producer for FOX. He runs with the Electric Flight Crew (EFC) a social and fitness society, where he is an assistant director.
“It ended up being a good day,” Fitzpatrick said. He first heard about the race from David Nonberg, a former Palisades High School standout swimmer, who is also associated with the EFC.
The “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” jinx was finally broken in the women’s 5K race when Palisadian Gwendolyn Twist defeated five-time winner Tania Fisher.
Twist achieved her first victory by running 18:57, ten seconds off the course record. “I was trying to break it,” said Twist, who co-coaches the Palisades High School cross country and track teams. “I’m training for a marathon in Sacramento next week.
“Even though this race is shorter, I’m sprinting the whole way,” Twist said.
Winning the 10K in 32.27 for a new course record was Redondo Beach’s Craig Taylor, who swims with Tower 26 at the PaliHi pool. It turns out he also trains for triathlons with a neighbor on Radcliffe Avenue and can often be seen sprinting around the block.
He was a cyclist in college at Indiana University. “Now I spend time competing in Iron Mans,” Taylor said. “I just competed in the Iron Man in Kona in October.”
He works for Zwift [virtual training for running and cycling] in Long Beach, but next Wednesday, he will undergo hip surgery, which will sideline him from competition the rest of the season.
Taylor said he had to compete in this race because of his rivalry with Ken Rideout, who has won the race the last two years and came in second this year, “I had to have him put up some sort of fight,” Taylor said.
Meghan Roberts won the 10K race in 40:44, but admitted the last mile, which is up Temescal Canyon Road “was horrific.”
She lives in Santa Cruz and this was her first time running in the Trot. “I’m here for Thanksgiving to visit Susan and Thomas Masi,” said Roberts who was a soccer player in high school, not a runner, and didn’t participate in sports at college.
She started running because her parents were runners and, last April, she qualifed to enter the Boston Marathon.
“Running is a total mental challenge and is applicable to life,” Robert said. “It is a metaphor for life, there are good parts and then like the hill, horrific, but you deal with it.”
Other runners included actess Jennifer Garner, a former Pacific Palisades resident, and PaliHi Booster Club President Dick Held.
“I run it every year,” said Held, who modeled his trash bag raincoat. “This is the perfect running weather and people don’t realize what they’re missing by not running it.”
He pointed out that the proceeds from the race go to “children who need heart surgery.” Hearts with Hope Foundation is one of the charity partners, and this year money will also be donated to the LA Fire Department.
Marie-Pierre Desaulniers has run the race since its inception seven years ago. “I started when my kids were in strollers and now, they’re running it.”
She admitted that she thought twice about coming out in the rain, but “we figured that there weren’t be as many people and my husband was all for it.”
Sponsors this year were Palisades Funding, Berkshire Hathaway, Caruso’s Palisades Village, Oro Capital Advisors, Exela Technologies, Barney’s Beanery and the Palisadian Post.
In addition to T-shirts for running the race, entrants also received a “goodie bag.” Sandi Taylor was in charge of packing the 1,600 paper bags, donated by Gelson’s.
“The Dodgers gave us 200 extra rally towels,” she said. “They told me to keep them in case it rains. Maybe the Dodgers are clairvoyant.”
Other goodies included a toothbrush and toothpaste from dentist Dr. Emma Kim, protein powder from Tiara Cameron, Bedhead lotion, footballs from Palisades Funding, Chapstick from Solum Insurance Agency and Kind bars.