Not looking FORWARD to it – 2012 Detroit Fifth Third Turkey Trot 5k

Posted: November 25, 2012 in 5k, Races, Running
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Thanksgiving is a very big day for running races in the United States. Here in Detroit we have the Fifth Third Turkey Trot. It is the largest road race in the U.S. on Thanksgiving day. This year was the 30th anniversary and for the first time they offered medals to all finishers of the 10k, 5k, and 1 mile races. Last year there was an incredible 20,000+ runners that took to the streets of Detroit to take part in it. After running the 10k in 2011 I knew I wanted to come back and run it again. I learned last year that this definitely wasn’t a race to enter in hopes of getting a personal record. The course is extremely crowded, there are tons of walkers, people with strollers, and people walking and running with their dogs. Since a PR was out of the question, I had to come up with a way to challenge myself, but still go out there and have a good time. After all, this is a fun run.

While having a few drinks with my 2 closest friends, the idea hit me. I was going to run backwards for the entire 5k. Maybe it was the alcohol talking, but it sounded like a lot of fun. I had never run backwards in my life. The next thing I needed to do was find a friend to run with me and help navigate. I knew if I ran solo it would be insanely difficult to weave thru all of the other runners so I needed an extra set of eyes. My friend Jessica agreed. She isn’t really a runner, but she did her first race earlier this year when we ran the Warrior Dash together. Neither of us trained at all. She did absolutely no running recently, and I didn’t even train myself to run backwards. It was going to be a huge challenge for both of us, but we welcomed it with open arms.


We lined up at the back of the slowest corral not knowing what kind of pace we would run. Immediately upon starting the race, there was an enormous traffic jam. This was going to be tough. We had to weave our way thru tons of walkers and slow runners. I really couldn’t believe it, but we were actually passing a lot of people. The runners had mixed feelings about seeing someone running backwards for the race. Some of them cheered, high-fived me, and shouted “Go backwards guy!”. Not everyone was that supportive though. I had a few people call me a show-off. I was kind of taken back by that. After all of the races I’ve done, I’ve never had people say negative things to me. I wasn’t running to make others look bad. I just wanted a challenge.

Within the first 1/4 mile my quads were on fire. My legs can handle very high mileage, but they were almost instantly rebelling. My neck and my eyes were hurting from looking over my shoulder constantly. I now knew just how hard this race would be. If it started to hurt that quickly, it was only going to get exponentially worse. I kept moving backward (or forward depending on your perspective) and continued on. Jessica and I started to develop a good system for navigating. At first she would say “go right, go left” but that didn’t work too well. She started pointing in the direction I needed to move. That was a much better system. Things got much smoother as we gained some experience and the crowd spread out a little bit. Now I just had to grind thru this race and deal with the pain.

About half way thru the race my legs were dead, my neck was kinked, and my eyes were severely fatigued. Turning around and running forward was not an option though . I committed to this and I was going to finish it no matter what. As we got close to the end we ran into an enormous traffic jam right before the finish. The last tenth of a mile was jammed. Everyone was waiting to cross the finish line. Somehow the race staff and voluteers were not moving the crowd along fast enough. We ended up waiting about 5 or 6 minutes to finally cross the finish line and claim our hard earned medals.


It was finally over! I actually made it without falling. We went inside Cobo Hall to get some post-race refreshments and meet up with my friend Jason from my running group. He also ran the 5k, but he ran solo. Jason, his wife, and I went to the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade but Jessica had to leave after the race.


We hung out along Woodward Ave. and watched the parade, sharing our individual experience with that day’s race. After having a few beers, the parade was almost over so we went on our way.

What I learned…
Running backwards is tough! The next day the pain really set in. I haven’t hurt that bad since my first full marathon but I do not regret going into the event without training. It was an incredible experience and a load of fun. Maybe next year I’ll run the 10k backwards!

  1. Jessica compton says:

    Tim, I am so thankful to have been a part of this with you. It felt great to help navigate you through the course. Thankfully we found a good system that worked finally half way through. Looking forward to our next race together and to be much more prepared then I was for this.


  2. Halfathoner says:

    What a fun, crazy, and great way to make an otherwise regular old 5K something incredibly unusual. I hope you weren’t too sore for too long, andthat you had a great Thanksgiving.

  3. kaprise says:

    This is awesome!!! 🙂

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