Since moving to Bethesda in 1994, the BCC’s Turkey Chase has been a family tradition. Whether we were staying in town or heading somewhere else, we would start the day with the Turkey Chase. It’s great exercise, you can burn your calories early and feel better about stuffing yourself (pun intended) later.
Also, you could catch up with your friends and neighbors after the race. The event had a neighborhood feel to it.
That has changed in recent years. The race brings such large numbers that parking and littering are now big concerns of those of us who live near the Y. People will block your driveway or throw water bottles on your lawn without a care or concern.
When running the 10K, it used to be crowded in the beginning, but then quickly thin out. Now, it is crowded the entire way. Most of the race takes place on Wisconsin Avenue and Old Georgetown Road, where runners are squeezed onto only one lane. So you need to be in shape and have sharp elbows to do well in the race.
Then when you finish the race, the logistics have lately been awful. You can’t get out of the finish chutes, the tents have been placed to create gridlock, and it is difficult to find friends or family.
The race is sponsored by the YMCA and a major fundraiser for the Y and the Rotary Club. Both are good causes, but the goal of fundraising seems to have superseded managing the event for the enjoyment of the participants.
To make sure that it wasn’t just a feeling that the race has become more crowded, I looked at the results pages. In 2000, 2661 runners completed the 10K. Ten years later in 2010, there were 3882 10K finishers, a 44% increase. The size of the Y field and the number of lanes available for runners have all stayed the same. This doesn't include those doing the 2 mile walk/run.
I’ll be running the 10K on Thursday morning. Say hi if you see me. But I’ll also be evaluating whether the event has gotten too big for its own good, and whether I want to keep this family tradition going.