New Orleans Athletic
ANNUAL TURKEY DAY RACE
Since 1986 assisting the needs of
children and families in our local
City Park Tad Gormley Stadium
Thanksgiving Morning: since 1907 !
Will you be part
of history on Thanksgiving morning?
The New Orleans
Athletic Club’s "Turkey Day Race" is one of the oldest and continuously held
non-marathon races in the United States. In 1986, the race became a charitable
event assisting the needs of our local community and has been instrumental in
helping the Spina Bifida Association of Greater New Orleans.
The race was
established in 1907 by Francis Thomas "Tad" Gormley, the Athletic Director of
the Young Men's Gymnastic Club (YMGC), which was renamed the New Orleans
Athletic Club (NOAC) in 1929. Mr. Gormley subsequently coached track at
Louisiana State University and served on the athletic staff of Loyola
University. In 1932, Mr. Gormley served as assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic
Track Team and in 1938 he was hired as the Athletic Director at City Park.
The Turkey Day
Race is steeped in running history and tradition. In 1907, Tad Gormley came to
New Orleans from Boston and started the Turkey Day Race and the Jackson Day
Race. The first runner across the finish line in 1907 was Leo Fincke of the YMCA
with a time of 31:20, and Jimmy Grant representing the YMGC was the Time Prize
Winner at 28:05. Historically, until the 1980’s, the runners were “handicapped”
based on their time. Often the first runner to cross the finish line was not
the runner with the best time. Races were designed so most of the runners
finished about the same time, so slower runners were given a head start or
handicap. From 1907 through 1966 the 5-mile race was held on North Rampart and
Canal Streets, except when it was suspended in 1918 because of World War I and
was revived by the Athletic Director in 1928, Irwin Poche. With the exception
the World War II period of 1943-45, the race has been held every Thanksgiving
dedication of City Park Stadium in 1937, track and field events grew over the
decades. The NOAC Punch magazine describes the 1947 race as “the opening event
for the 1947-48 Cross Country Season” with participants from local high schools
including Jesuit and Holy Cross; area universities including L.S.U. and Tulane;
and military teams from as far away as the Pensacola Naval Air Station. The
Punch described the 1957 race on November 28th “as the biggest
cross-country race of the Southern AAU district.” A 1963 Punch story identified
the first attempt to expand the race beyond the serious 150 AAU runners by
creating a half-mile event for “business executives.” During the 1960’s the race
increased in its popularity with runners from the southern U.S. competing in
what had developed to be a major event with team awards for universities and
After the death of
Tad Gormley in 1965, the stadium in City Park was renamed in his honor. In 1967
a 5-mile racecourse was established in and around City Park with the finish line
in Tad Gormley Stadium, the location of the 1992 Olympic Track and Field Trials.
In 1967 the winner of the first race in Tad Gormley Stadium was Jonathan
Boydston with a time of 24:44 from the University of Chicago Track Club.
across the country traveled to New Orleans each Thanksgiving to compete in the
Turkey Day Race but history was made in 1969 when the first woman competed in
the race. Barbara Gorrondona in 1969 was the first female to compete against 102
men and made race history. That same year the time prize went to the NOAC’s
Larry Fuselier with a winning time of 29:10.
In 1970, inspired
by Barbara Gorrondona, four women entered the race and competed against 108 male
runners. Another historic event occurred when the first to cross the finish line
was a 16 year-old female, Alicia Sabi an Ursuline Academy sophomore who with a
12-minute handicap ran the race in 31:52. Phil Camp from the Pensacola Naval
Station was the time prize winner at 24:14.
As the world
changed so did the race. In the late 1970’s running became a popular form of
exercise and a social event. The size of the Turkey Day Race grew from 150 to
1,000 participants by the mid 1980’s. With that growth, the focus of the race
changed to include the elite runners and the now large general running
community. Awards now covered age groups and special events, including the first
wheelchair division in 1986 introduced by the Spina Bifida Association of
Greater New Orleans.
By 1986 the race
became a large event that required year long planning and development, which
required more resources. Based on the NOAC historic support of charities since
1872 and desire to develop the historic race, the NOAC created another historic
event by making the Turkey Day Race a “charitable event”, to help children
and their families in need with all profits
donated to the charities actively involved in supporting and developing this
Thanksgiving tradition since 1907.
Turkey Day Race has established a rich tradition and heritage among runners
throughout the South. Tradition best describes the Turkey Day Race. In the
February 1986 issue of RUNNER'S WORLD, an article entitled "You
Should Be Committed,” covered the 78th Annual Turkey Day Race in a feature on a
local runner, Mr. Albert Briede.
In 2008, Mr. Briede participated in
his 50th consecutive Turkey Day Race. Incredible !
Make this historic New Orleans race part of your
holiday and history !