There was plenty of novelty in the latest installment of a longtime Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) tradition.
The 34th Annual AEDC Turkey Trot, held Nov. 15 at Arnold Air Force Base, featured a new route, new post-race festivities and new winners.
More than three dozen AEDC team members and their families participated in the Turkey Trot. The event was once again headed up by the Arnold AFB Company Grade Officers Council and was open to runners and walkers of all ages and skill levels.
“I couldn’t be happier with how we pulled it off,” said Capt. Johnathan Gutierrez, a member of the CGOC and lead organizer of the Turkey Trot for the second consecutive year. “I had people help me map out the trail. I had people help me set up. There was a lot of people who helped, and the fact that we got 40 people, that was great.”
This year, runners departed the starting line outside the Arnold Lakeside Center, sprinted through the parking lot and onto a trail that took them around the back of the ALC and along Woods Reservoir. The trail then took participants through the Arnold Village community and back to the ALC. Runners completed this loop twice to finish the race.
Past AEDC Turkey Trots were held around the Administration & Engineering Building within the gated confines of the Arnold AFB mission area. Gutierrez said his desire to see a new backdrop for the race and interaction among participants inspired the change of locale.
“I knew that there was a trail out here, but I had never ran it before,” Gutierrez said. “I love Woods Reservoir and that the ALC is here. I was trying to promote an even more social atmosphere than previous ones.”
Along with the new route, this year’s Turkey Trot featured a post-run social hour in the ALC, allowing runners and walkers to gather for some relaxation, a cold drink and fellowship at the conclusion of the race.
Gutierrez said he feels the changes helped bring a fresh feel to the Turkey Trot.
“The cool thing was this year a few more people brought their families and kids, rather than last year it was all participants from what I remember,” Gutierrez said.
The first AEDC Turkey Trot was held in 1985 and quickly became an annual tradition at Arnold. It is viewed as a way to bring civilian contractors, government employees and military members across Arnold together for a little pre-Thanksgiving fun.
Historically, the AEDC Turkey Trot has benefitted area families in need, and this year’s event was no different. Participants were asked to bring a non-perishable food item for donation. The food collected was donated to the Good Samaritan foodbank in Tullahoma.
A pair of newcomers to Arnold conquered the new course to take the top spot in their respective divisions. AEDC Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty, who arrived at Arnold in June, placed first among male runners with a time of 17 minutes 33 seconds.
While this marked Geraghty’s first AEDC Turkey Trot, he said he understands why it has become a much-anticipated event.
“It was fun,” he said. “There were lots of fast runners out there today, and it was fun having company on the trail, including family members.”
Capt. Elizabeth Sewell, who arrived at Arnold around four months ago, finished first among female runners with a time of 22 minutes 24 seconds.
As is tradition, Geraghty and Sewell each took home a frozen turkey for their wins. Each was also given a small plush turkey to serve as a reminder of victory.
“It feels good,” Sewell said of her first-place finish. “You put in a lot of work all year just to stay in shape because it’s part of our job, so when you can come home with the turkey, it helps keep that motivation going for next year’s Turkey Trot and future races and then PT (physical training) tests.”
Although he said he would once again like to see the event held at the ALC, Gutierrez hinted that further changes could be in store for next year’s AEDC Turkey Trot. He said he is working on ideas to encourage more family participation.
Gutierrez added that it is important to carry on the tradition at Arnold, as the holiday wouldn’t feel the same for some without the AEDC Turkey Trot.
“It’s a fun thing that people have come to look forward to,” Gutierrez said. “Whether they admit it or not, I think they look forward to it. Plus, Turkey Trots are one of the biggest races ran in America, so it’s a fun tradition to have. And the fact that we can pull people together around the holidays is always cool.”