Thursday, November 21, 2002

Turkey Day race

A cozy party for 10,000


I try to think of it in her terms. Julie Isphording says it's like "throwing a party."

I suppose it is if you are expecting 10,000 people at your party. I'm trying to imagine a "party" where you have to close off streets and ask ARTIMIS to give traffic directions. Julie also has to put computer chips on her guests to keep track of them. She has to plan their bathroom breaks. And even if I am personally doing the cooking - my specialty is Twinkies FlambČ - I've never had to arrange for seven ambulances to stand by.

Julie, Olympic runner and radio personality and thoroughly positive person, says that her "party," the Thanksgiving Day Race, is "really about fitness." Ha. I personally know at least a dozen people who run in this race because they can go home afterward and eat all the pumpkin pie they want.

Old race, new wrinkles

Next week's race is the oldest road race in the Midwest. Since 1908 when 19 guys ran from the Fort Thomas Gym to the downtown YMCA, it has been sidelined only twice - by the First World War in 1918 and in 1936 by a management glitch.

Management has gotten considerably more complicated since then, including microchips fixed to the runners shoes to show when they cross the start and finish lines on Second Street at Paul Brown Stadium. The race, which begins at 9 a.m., winds through downtown Cincinnati, crosses over the Taylor-Southgate Bridge into Newport, then into Covington and back over the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

This year, Julie was notified that she has to arrange for dogs to sniff the crates of food to make sure no bombs are planted in the Sara Lee brownies or bananas.

And all year long, the questions roll in, questions that even the race's elaborate Web site didn't anticipate.

A woman has a cat that will walk on a leash. Can she run with it? (Before she asked Julie, I think the woman should have asked the cat.) Will the course be flat? What day will the Thanksgiving Day Race be on? Will it rain?

The race director laughs. She says she has Channel 12 meteorologist Steve Horstmeyer on her speed dial, but still no idea about whether runners will be dry or wet, warm or cold. She knows for a fact that the race will be run on Nov. 28 and that runners may expect an incline or two.

"Gee, it's Cincinnati. It'd be a miracle to find 6.2 miles that were flat," she says.

Runners come from all over the country. But most would be home for the holiday anyway. Their roots are in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Some come back to run with old high school friends; some run in family groups.

Proceeds go to various charities, the roster changing but always local. Registration fee is $15, and online registration is open through midnight Friday. After that, you can register at the Running Spot in O'Bryonville or race day morning at Paul Brown Stadium.

"Getting out and getting people healthy," Julie says. "That's what it's all about."

Well, that and the pumpkin pie thing.

E-mail lpulfer@enquirer .com or phone 768-8393.

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