The morning was much colder than I was used to. There was frost on the ground and I could see my breath. I was nervous. This was my first official 5K and my first time running in 12 degree weather. I was hoping that as the sun rose in the sky the temperature would warm up.

I had been training in Arizona to run a race in Wisconsin. The difference was quite drastic, but I was up for the challenge because I had wanted to run this race for years. I remember being in college and hearing about the 5K. Back then I mostly ran on treadmills. I was afraid to run outside. I thought I would never be able to run a 5K outside. I was letting my asthma win.

When I moved to Arizona I switched between running on the treadmill and running outside then I stopped running. I gained weight. I decided to start running again to lose weight. Somewhere along the line I decided I was going to run that 5K. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run outside for 3.1 miles.

I made plans to go home for Thanksgiving and run the UW-L Turkey Trot. My dad decided he wanted to join me. He also has run off and on over the years.

The Turkey Trot was the Saturday the 17th, just before Thanksgiving. I arrived from sunny Arizona to the frozen tundra just the day before the race. I was incredibly nervous and had trouble sleeping the night before. My dad and I were up early to grab our race packets. We parked, trekked across campus and then went back to the car to warm up a bit. In order to stretch and warm up before the race we went into the nearest building; we weren’t alone in this idea.

It was then time to line up. In 2012, the Turkey Trot did not have corrals (they now do) and we lined up in the middle area, as I knew I wasn’t going to be fast. I predicted a 36 minute 5K. I thought 12-minute miles was a fair guess since I didn’t usually run in such cold.

As most people do, we started out too fast. After a bit, I had to slow down due to my asthma. I usually don’t have an issue in Arizona, but the cold air was making it more difficult. My dad stuck with me and ran my pace even though he can run much faster.

The route took us through the streets near campus and then through the marsh. Even though it wasn’t green this time of year, it was still gorgeous scenery to run through. To finish, we ran into Veteran’s Memorial Stadium and around the track. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when running into a stadium to cross the finish line. It makes me feel even more like an athlete than just a random finish line on the street.

We had warmed up a bit on the run, but it was still cold out. We headed inside to the post-race party, had our banana and coffee to warm up. We waited for our results to be posted. We finished our first 5K in 34:49, an average pace of 11:13. Not too shabby! I already was swelling with a huge sense of accomplishment but now I ran almost 11 minute miles?? I was ecstatic! I knew I could finish; I had run my training plan in Arizona which had me hitting 4 miles at the peak but I was so worried the cold would really slow me down.

I haven’t been able to go back to run the Turkey Trot the last two years but I have participated in the virtual race. I have since ran three half marathons and signed up for my first marathon but the UW-L Turkey Trot will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first race. It solidified my love for running and racing. Hopefully I will be able to go back and run it again. I would love to see if I can beat 34:49 in the same race.

I am looking forward to fourth of July; my dad and I will be running a 4 mile race together. I am looking forward to cooler temperatures in Wisconsin but am a little worried about the humidity!


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.