Last Thursday, thousands of people across the country participated in Turkey Trots before returning to their homes to eat turkey. Except in Cincinnati, Ohio, where participants at the Thanksgiving Day 10K Race stripped finish line refreshments like a biblical plague of locusts.
The day began like any other in the race's 105-year history. Race director Julie Isphording, winner of the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon and 12-time winner of the event, called the start "a perfect day." But that broke down when early finishers of the 6.2-mile race began filling small boxes they received from a protein bar company with post-race snacks. This escalated to near riot as people began looking for bigger and bigger containers to hoard granola bars and single-serving yogurt.
"There were people jumping in dumpsters to find bigger boxes," Isphording said. "I couldn't believe it. People brought bags of their own just so they could stuff them full.
"People were stealing food, cussing kids out and one threw a box at me. They threw it right in my face."
It was so excessive that one witness said looters had trouble carting off their overflowing boxes. By the time the back-of-the-pack walkers finished the race, the only thing left was the liquids.
Isphording, who has directed the event for the past 12 years, said she was amazed by the "growing amount of entitlement," likening the rush to a Black Friday sale. She's already planning changes for 2015 edition of the race, including dropping the high school volunteers—"They weren't able to stop the people stealing the food," she said—and implementing stricter finish line controls, which would include a "no reentry" policy.
But even if this tragedy is never repeated, Cincinnatians will remember that day of days when the post-race snacks were carted away by the boxful.
"Our fears were confirmed," one witness remembered. "All that was left for them were some offbeat flavored drinks and mashed bagels on the ground."