Farewell to the Turkey Trot
FITCHBURG -- On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Ashburnham’s Peter Orni has made the pilgrimage to Slattery’s in Fitchburg to run five miles.
It’s not the only running the 75-year-old does. He’s also run 75 marathons over the course of his life, among countless other events. But every year since it began in 1981, Orni has run the five miles that makes up the Slattery’s Turkey Trot.
And with the race being run for the last time on Sunday, Orni wasn’t missing it for the world.
“It’s something I do every year,” said Orni, who noted his best time in the race was an even 30 minutes, coming many years ago. “It’s been a great race and it’s been special to be involved with every one of them.”
The final installment of the road race came amidst dwindling participation, but saw several hundred runners take to the streets of Fitchburg one last time. Neal Darmody, a 28-year-old resident of Bowe, New Hampshire, claimed the men’s race with a time just under 25 minutes, while Providence’s Catarina Rocha took first among women runners with a time of 27:20.
“I ran this race two years ago and had a good run, but finished something like seventh,” Darmody said. “I felt good out there today and was about to get front early and just have a great run.”
Rocha, who just finished her fifth year at Providence College where she was an accomplished cross country runner, entered the race on the urging of a coach while preparing for the club national championships.
“I didn’t realize it was this hilly, but I got out by myself and just ran,” Rocha said. “It was good. I think my pace was around 5:30 a mile, so it wasn’t too bad.”
For many of the 400 runners or so taking part in the main race, it was a chance to say farewell to an event that became a yearly tradition for anyone looking to get in a good run at an event that gave back to the community. The Slattery’s Turkey Trot has annually awarded scholarships to students from several north central Massachusetts schools with the proceeds from the race.
“I tried to get back and support them because they’ve done so much for students,” said Leominster’s Jon Hebert, himself a recipient of a scholarship in 1999. “I ran this as a kid and in high school and I’ve tried to get back here as much as I could after finishing college.”
In addition to the main men’s and women’s races, walkers and kids also took to the course, which passes through Fitchburg State University and down Ashby State Road.
Jason Bugarin, former track and cross country standout at Fitchburg High, said he hadn’t run the race since 2014 due to attending college, but had to be back for the final running.
“It’s sad to see it go,” Bugrain, 22, said. “It brings a lot to the area and I know a lot of people look forward to it every year.”
As for what the future holds, Orni sees no reason to think he won’t be making the trek to Fitchburg on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
“I’ll be coming here to run,” he said with a smile. “And I don’t think I’ll be the only one.”