North Reading Turkey Trot 5K
North Reading, Massachusetts
5K – 3.1 miles
Finish: 17:53 (5:47 pace)
5th Place Overall
2nd Place Over-30
As the saying goes, “There is a first time for everything,” and often it is a first you will never forget.
I will never forget my first road race. It was a 5-miler in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
I will never forget my first Ironman. It was in Madison, Wisconsin, the very same day I proposed to my lovely wife.
I will never forget my first time. It was in the back seat of… oh nevermind.
And I will never forget the innaugural town of North Reading Thanksgiving Day road race, a 5K Turkey Trot. It was the first time in my long history of running races and doing triathlons that I have ever led a race — the entire race — for even a short amount of time.
With a field of thankful friends and families totaling 300, the North Reading Turkey Trot got off to a meager start with myself and a handful of high schoolers blasting into the front. A quarter mile in, I found myself dangerously close to leading the race. So close I was that I knew if I could just put in a surge that I would indeed be leading the race. I didn’t quite think it was something I could hold, as I knew Fast Frankie and some of these high schoolers were capable of going well under 18 minutes, but still the thought struck me: I had never, to that point, ever led a race of any distance.
After a controlled surge, I settled in, for the first time in my long history of running, in first place. I, Thor Kirleis, was leading a race. I couldn’t help but smile. Giddy with myself, I just had to tell someone, and so with me two paces in front of a group of, maybe, 10, I enjoyed the sight in front of me with a bicyclist leading the way, charting the way for my path, and the group of dogs hounding on my heels.
With a quick turn back to assess the herd, I smiled and said, like a complete rookie, “Hey, I’ve never led a race before.” Not a word came back; everybody was running too hard. Then after another look back, this time with an even wider smile, I said, “I’m winning, boys… I’m in first place… who’s going to take it away from me?”
Just then Pete, my buddy John’s relative who was in town to share in the holiday, came up on the far side and took the lead.
My first place glory lasted for all of a few hundred yards, maybe less. But no matter, a first is a first, and to lead a race even for a short while gives me motivation to try to lead one when it matters most.
As so with that victory already in the bank, I punched on over this short rolling hills course, feeling fluid and smooth in mind and body, especially considering both were still getting over racing a marathon only days earlier, for a 5th place finish, with 1st through 4th still square in sights.