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Four of the hardy folks who braved -28 degree wind chill to run in Watertown's 2010 Turkey Day 5K.
Four of the hardy folks who braved -28 degree wind chill to run in Watertown's 2010 Turkey Day 5K.

You Have To Earn Your Pumpkin Pie Around Here

Nov 21, 2011

Now the perfectly good warmth of a Thanksgiving morn in front of a roaring fire with Snoopy and Bullwinkle and the rest of the Macy’s Parade ensemble is no more for many in our community, due to the Hiedeman family. As first impressions go, Steve and Patty seem like a normal couple, blessed with four beautiful and accomplished daughters, but there’s something a little unusual about the Hiedeman household. A few years ago they decided that the excesses of Thanksgiving dinner should be preceded by a family run — taking in the late November beauty that a northeastern South Dakota community has to offer. Over time, the little family run grew to an annual community event — the Hiedeman Turkey Day 5k. Until last year, the event was staged from the family garage in Northeast Watertown, plus a porta potty in the driveway. The awards ceremony took place in the two-stall garage, with the premium spots located near the space heaters. Awards are — of course — pumpkin pies. The good news — everybody that is there at the end gets hot apple cider and a piece of pumpkin pie.

But, this is no ordinary little run. In 2008 over 190 runners participated. Runners are encouraged to share their bounty, by bringing food stuffs for a local church food bank.

The field includes several NCAA Division I distance runners. The Heidemans’ daughter Caitlin married former SDSU standout quarterback, Ryan Berry, and Caitlin made her mark on the college running scene. Besides Caitlin’s friends and teammates, NDSU cross country coach Ryun Godfrey is a Watertown native, who apparently brings his team from Fargo to Watertown for the Heideman run, with the additional lure of a turkey feed at the home of Watertown running coach and father, Vic Godfrey.

In addition to the D-I caliber athletes, there are also the Very-Not-D-Anything ”athletes” that heavily populate the 5k run and 2 mile walk — as well as the many family and friends there to cheer on the field. A buddy of mine dutifully trains for this event each year, always wondering if the first aid crew will be good enough to assure him survival to at least one last turkey dinner. It is ominous that the course routes the wheezing, frost-bitten participants through the local cemetery — seriously. To date, the Hiedemans’ web site reports no fatalities, and precious few egos injured in this festive community event.

Last year the infectious nature of the whole affair was tested by forecasts of deep sub-zero wind chills. Due to the growth of the event, prior to the forecast it had been relocated to the local Cornerstone Methodist Church Hall. As the weatherman predicted, the wind chill for the 2010 event was 28 degrees below zero, which made moving the start closer to the local cemetery seem even more fortuitous.

At this point, in more temperate climates, the Macy’s parade would have won out and the sane crowd would stay home. But up here on the Coteau, the rules are different. In true homesteader bloodline fashion, 107 South Dakotans (there were also a few North Dakota athletes looking for free turkey at the Godfrey house, and a guy and two gals from St. Joe, Missouri!) still competed. The crowd included housewives, children, whole families — and of course some not-exactly-D-Anything Athletes. You couldn’t help but wonder if the local mental health counseling program wasn’t a little under-promoted as these hardy souls raced in slightly clad running gear, at temperatures that cause perfectly good engines to seize up. But, the event was a frozen and smashing success.

A few years ago I started participating in this foolishness, and last year one of my college age children joined me in the race. Having cleared a half century and possessing two bad hips, I don’t train for these things. At my age, nothing good happens to your body from all that extra running, so. I focus on power-walking for the cardio endurance, and Aleve for the hips. Plus, because there is a farmer in my age group with nothing better to do all year than run down his township road like a bounding deer — I can’t win anyway. 

But in the deep freeze of 2010 two special things happened. First, I beat my daughter to the finish line. Ok, I’m a realist. These are pyrrhic victories — eventually math and the calendar will change the placing in those finishes, so I take my victories while I can. But even more importantly, we’d left before the awards ceremony. Later that day a victor’s pumpkin pie was delivered to our home. Immediately realizing that the speeding farmer was surely the rightful owner of the over-50 pie, I did what any AARP-eligible athlete does when faced with the prospect of having to return a mistaken trophy — I took a bite out of it. There’s no chance they’d make me give back a pie that was missing a piece. Besides, all those calories wouldn’t affect my form, but surely would throw his lean frame off.

So now we approach 2011. The weather is forecast to be in the 40s, the kind of temps that even the folks south of the Mason-Dixon Line would run in. Having already won a pie, there’s little left to prove, almost. BOTH of my college age kids have now been training for this race. Dad’s time on top of the family running victor’s stand is probably numbered. Sure, I’ve already started my regiment of Aleve, and paced myself with a 5k warm up run last May (the hospital’s Heart Attack Hill Run is a story for another day). But the real power of writing is being able to pick when an epic ends. 

Thursday is Thanksgiving. While I can’t predict the finish for tomorrow’s race (I’m just hoping they don’t have reason to leave me out in that cemetery) Today, I still feel good enough to share the Thanksgiving prayer from 1:Thessalonians: “In all things give thanks…”

Lee Schoenbeck grew up in Webster, practices law in Watertown, and is a freelance writer for the South Dakota Magazine website.


04:36 pm - Mon, November 21 2011
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Never heard of the Hiedeman 5K. If it were 4K less, I'd consider competing. But what a great Thanksgiving tradition. I know how you feel about getting beat by a child. My son beat me at arm wrestling about 20 years ago when he was 16. But I beat him every time before that, and he hasn't won since.
08:45 pm - Mon, November 21 2011
Thanks Lee! It's great to hear testimonials from the event! We're happy to provide a fun, freezing, family event for the community. See you in a few days!
06:50 am - Tue, November 22 2011
Lee Schoenbeck said:
Hally's father advised me that I was off on one thing - it is a three stall garage where the awards ceremony used to be, and he added one other interesting factoid:
former Olympian and current SDSU cross country coach Rod DeHaven holds the course record.
06:32 am - Wed, November 23 2011
Rebecca said:
Great story! My husband has always talked about starting a Turkey Day 5k in Yankton. I will have to show this to him!
12:09 pm - Wed, November 23 2011
Charlie Hoffman said:
Bernie is that string of non-losses a direct outcome of a non-compete contract you signed after that last stinging humbling?

Great story Lee and if it were a race with a couple engines supplied I'd be in. Mine don't work so well in running gear anymore!
08:40 am - Fri, November 25 2011
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Charlie ... you guessed it. No matches, no losses. Unbeaten for 20 years.

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