Couple Enrique MacGregor and Mark Niermann are back to Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Life+Style Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
While most of us will limit our exercise on Thanksgiving Day to waddling from the dining room into the living room to watch the Cowboys lose, Mark Niermann and Enrique McGregor will do the unthinkable: Run eight miles in the early hours of a holiday known for getting people fat, not thin.
Clearly, they don’t understand the occasion. But they are not alone: 40,000 North Texans turn out for one Thursday each year to support the Turkey Trot, now in its 43rd year.
It’s not as insane as it sounds, although both MacGregor and Niermann — who have been together for 14 years — do concede that traditionally, it’s cold in late November. But it’s also worth it.
“For the Turkey Trot, it’s more about having fun — it’s not a competitive race. It’s about thousands of people getting together on a festive occasion,” says MacGregor. “It’s a thrill — entire families will dress as turkey leg dads and cranberry kids and run together.”
Wait a minute: Exercise that comes with costumes? How come more gays don’t do this? Half could recycle their loincloths from Halloween and go as Native Americans.
But of course, many gays do participate — often with their families.
“We started seven or eight years ago when Enrique’s family started coming here for Thanksgiving,” says Niermann. “Thanksgiving is all about being together and having fun. I think it’s a great day to have the run.”
“It’s something to get people out of the house and get some fresh air,” adds MacGregor. “And Mark is trying to beat my nephew this year.”
While this couple always tackles the longer 8-mile course, there is also a 5K course for those less accustomed to jogging — though even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.
“I think a lot of the people running the eight miles are not serious runners but the once-a-year kind who say, what’s the harm?” says MacGregor. Some even jog part of the way, they walk the rest — although he admits neither he nor Niermann do that. Both are in a more elite group of serious-minded athletes. Two years ago, they ran the White Rock Marathon together, and they routinely exercise by running several courses through their neighborhood.
Niermann notes, however, that they have both been traveling a lot lately and may find this race more challenging than in part years — though nothing like the marathon.
Sharing an affinity for athletics is nothing new to them — it actually kicked off their relationship.
“We met swimming,” says MacGregor. “The first time I ever said him was underwater at a public pool in Denver. Everything looks bigger underwater! He was in the next lane over. I turned and saw this little vision in a blue Speedo … and Mark was right behind that!”
The Turkey Trot isn’t their only charitable venture. Niermann and MacGregor are co-founders of the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas, which just celebrated it 10-year anniversary. That group started as a way to raise money to build the Latino Cultural Center, but has since increased its scope, donating more than $1 million for education, artistic and medical enterprises across the city.
The Trot, though, is more about tradition than fundraising for them.
“We always have a big dinner — this year about 40 people are coming,” says Niermann. “It’s really a reunion for Enrique’s family — they come from Maryland, Mexico, San Diego.”
“We also have a golf tournament the day after and hold a creative contest of some kind,” says MacGregor.
“And we have a contest for best sweet potato recipe, which I always win,” says Niermann.
The Trot takes place early enough that, aside from waking up early, it leaves plenty of time for the rest of the day to finish cooking, watch the Macy’s parade and football on TV. But the Trot remains a highlight.
“Even if you’re not a runner or a walker, the spectacle of seeing 40,000 people is an amazing experience,” says MacGregor. “Everyone can participate.”
“Plus it builds up your appetite for dinner later,” adds Niermann.
Pass the pumpkin pie — you’ve earned it.
Day-of registration is $30. For more information, visit TheTrot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.