Dawn Grunnalege and Melisa Christian

Dawn Grunnalege and Melisa Christian

More than 40,000 people are expected to toe the line at tomorrow’s YMCA Dallas Turkey Trot. The first Thanksgiving Day trot was held at White Rock Lake, and the unique eight-mile distance just happened to be how far “That Big Oak Tree” was from the starting line, according to historians. That 1968 race boasted 107 participants.

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Over the years the race moved downtown and began benefitting the YMCA — both financially and because it so effectively promoted fitness. After a 3-mile event was added in the 80s, the event grew in its popularity, so much so that by the 00s, runners who actually wanted to race were frustrated, because they found it difficult to navigate the walkers, dogs and strollers populating the course.

In the past couple of years, race organizers have found an effective solution to this problem — they now offer both timed races and fun runs, and the events separate the serious racers from the walkers and plodders. I raced last year and found little resistance, and was not bothered by the crowds in the least. In fact, with the recently revised flat course I managed to run my fastest Trot ever (52:37).

Dawn and Melisa

Dawn Grunnagle and Melisa Christian

The male winners, a nod to them, usually are out of towners or suburbanites. The female winners over the years have repeatedly been two talented athletes with LakeHighlands ties. Last year’s female winner in (46:24), Dawn Grunnagle taught at Merriman Park Elementary for seven years and still coaches the school’s youth running club. Dawn says she won’t be in town for this year’s Turkey Trot, which she says she’s sad about. The 36 year old recently qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon, which we will tell you more about soon.

Another big name in Turkey Trot recent history is Lake Highlands-area dentist Melisa Christian. Christian has won the women’s Turkey Trot no less than five times, including 2012, and placed top three on other occasions. I haven’t heard back from her yet on whether she plans to race tomorrow. She recently competed in the triathlon world championships in Kona, Hawaii.