Karah Lindbergh looked like she was dressed for a costume contest rather than a road race.
Thursday morning at the 107th annual Turkey Day Race, Lindbergh wore red knee-high socks; red elbow pads; and a fringed, brown tunic in the style of a historic Native American. The highlight of her ensemble, however, was a giant headdress that resembled a turkey caricature.
With the googly-eyed bird perched atop her head, and its “stuffed legs” dangling over her ears, she was a humorous sight among the crowd of about 3,000 people at New Orleans City Park who participated in one of America’s oldest races.
She wasn’t alone in her costuming theme, however. There were many other runners and walkers who dressed as turkeys or pilgrims. There was headgear that had turkey “drumsticks” sticking from the top, and at least one person who had a faux piece of pumpkin pie atop her noggin.
Dressing up is only one of many venerable traditions associated with the Turkey Day Race, which is staged by the New Orleans Athletic Club and the New Orleans Track Club. For years, the race has attracted hundreds of out-of-staters who are in the Crescent City visiting relatives for the holiday.
It’s also an opportunity for everyone to get in some exercise before indulging in the decadent Thanksgiving meal.
Lindbergh was there for all those reasons. She was with about a dozen family members and friends — and as a dietician, she had a pretty fair account of how the race would affect her eating habits later in the day. Plus, she had done her cooking the night before, knowing Thursday morning was dedicated to the race, which she’s entered since 2006.
“Probably about 500 caloires,” she said, when asked how much energy she’d burn in the 5-mile Turkey Day Race. “It’s calories out, then calories in.”
Not far from where Lindbergh and her group awaited the 8:30 a.m. start of the race were sisters Bailey and Katie Adams. The 20-somethings were sporting foam turkeys atop their heads — each sporting the logo of a popular liquor that prominently features the bird.
They had indulged in another New Orleans tradition the night before, they said, with a few adult drinks. They were going to take Thursday’s race slowly but wouldn’t miss the chance to participate, which they have done for several years.
“It’s nice to be part of the Thanksgiving run movement,” Katie said.
A lesser known tradition of the Turkey Day Race features former Catholic League cross country runners donning their old high school jerseys and representing their alma maters. Their participation was evident when the 5-mile race ended in Tad Gormley Stadium, as many of the top 100 or so runners were dressed in their prep colors.
Kevin Fitzgerald, a 24-year-old former Jesuit runner, won the race in 25 minutes, 35 seconds — a 5:07-per-mile pace. Beau Robinson finished second in 25:58, and Richard Bouckaert was third in 26:11.
“This is an alumni race for us,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of us certainly look too old to be in high school anymore, but when everyone is back in town for Thanksgiving, we take the opportunity to reconnect out here. So it’s competitive for us — not necessarily individually, but definitely for my old team.”
Andi Aguilar, 21, led the women’s field in 30:11. Daphney Stanford placed second in 30:29, and Celia Zaeringer was third with a time of 31:11.
For complete race results, and for more information on upcoming NOTC races, go to runnotc.org.