It was conceived on a porch about five miles away in North Andover. Thirty-two races later, the annual event that takes over Andover on Thanksgiving morning has carved out a niche in the New England road racing community.
There may not be a better event that celebrates life, health, family and passion than the Feaster Five Road Race.
Another enormous field of more than 10,000 — yes, 10,000 — is expected in Andover for the run or walk (5K or 5-mile) or the Kid’s K for ages 3 to 12.
Here are 32 reasons -- one for every race since its inception -- why a trip to Shawsheen Village, and the crossroads of Routes 133 and 28, is worth it this Thanksgiving.
1. A free apple pie
It is a sweet payoff for covering 3.1 miles.
2. Race director is a G.O.A.T.
Tom Brady might be the greatest football player of all time, but he's not the only G.O.A.T. in our midst. There is no race director to match Dave McGillivray. Participate in this event once, just once, and you’ll understand. McGillivray is also the Boston Marathon race director, and he lives in North Andover.
3. Your dog can run, too
I love this part of the race. In the past couple of years, more than 300 walkers have brought along a four-legged friend. There are areas of the course for those walking (or running) with their dogs. What other race does that?
4. Long-sleeve tech hoodie
No avid jogger in the Merrimack Valley is without one.
5. You can eat more at the dinner table
Maybe this should be Reason No. 1.
6. Bring the family
Even the person cooking the turkey can run. What other sporting event can you say that about?
7. Kid’s K
One of my favorite parts of this day is watching the kids as young as 3 get in their first official race. It's cool. All kids get medals around their necks after the finish.
8. The energy
If they could bottle the pre-race vibe, they could send 200 rockets to the moon. As early as 45 minutes before race time, you can sense something important is about to happen. Everybody’s heart is beating faster.
9. Weather or not
Feaster organizers go to great lengths, safety permitting, to get the race in. A freezing, wet and icy road were a concern last November, but the race still went on, though it was limited to a 5K. We're New Englanders, after all. We're not wimps. Cold, rain, snow, sleet, even heat -- the race never has been canceled.
10. Justin Beiber
Don't be surprised if you see him on the course. OK, Bieber's a new name. I’ve mentioned Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in the past. (Affleck was working out with Andover's Walter Norton at IPF at one point, and you remember his pal Damon ran the Feaster just over a decade ago.) You never know about Beiber. I’m just sayin’.
11. Billy and Joanie
What would the Feaster Five be without Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson? Frankly, I don't know because they've been at this about as long as I have. The two marathoning legends only run the best. And both are available for pictures and conversation after. By the way, Joanie finished in 21:51 over 3.1 miles last year. It beat all women and men 60 and over.
12. Football time
This is important. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. Most runners are done by 9:30. In fact, the 5K distance gets you out a little earlier -- just in time to make it to your traditional high school football game.
13. The Striders
The best running club in New England, the Merrimack Valley Striders, has hosted the storied event since its inception. At least 100 of its members are stationed throughout the course.
14. The start
It's worth the price of registration to be in the middle of all those people when the gun goes off. In fact, by the time the first runner finishes the 5K, some walkers will be crossing the “starting” line.
15. The finish
It is worth the price to see so many happy (and a few achy) faces.
16. No cheating
Infamous "marathoner" Rosie Ruiz is not welcome here. Every official runner gets a magnetic strip attached to their number, ensuring his or her time and participation are duly recorded. Lying, especially on Thanksgiving, is also a big no-no.
Walk or run, you get enough goodies at the finish to feed a family of four. Bananas? Check. Yogurt? Check? Doughnuts? Check.
18. Pre-race exercise
About a half-hour before the race, the aerobic workout can be heard from a mile away.
19. The music
It’s blaring everywhere. At the start, finish and a lot of places in between. By the way, dancing is allowed.
20. Follow the signs
You couldn’t get lost if you tried. There are signs and volunteers everywhere to point you in the right direction.
21. Walking encouraged
It will be the best walk of the year, guaranteed.
22. The Hoyts
Team Hoyt -- dad Dick Hoyt, who has retired in place of a Methuen man, Dr. Bryan Lyons, who now pushes Rick Hoyt in road races -- are usually among the celebrity guests. In fact, Dick Hoyt comes out of retirement to run the Feaster. The father-son duo have an incredible story that inspires pretty much everyone they meet.
23. Sleeping's overrated
Most people are off on Friday. Sleep late the next day. There's too much excitement to sleep through.
24. Heartbreak hills
The Boston Marathon has its historic hills. So does the Feaster Five; in fact, it has two of them. The first huge hill is on Main Street, which is more than a quarter-mile long. The last “killer” hill is just before the finish on York Street. These are not easy.
25. Thanksgiving ‘race day’
Massive growth in turkey trots has propelled Thanksgiving to the most popular holiday for road racing.
26. Selfie heaven
Ever take a photo with several thousand people behind you? Talk about the potential for retweets.
27. Sunny and cold
The Farmer’s Almanac predicts the Boston area will be sunny and a bit chilly from Nov. 23 to Nov. 28. It's never been wrong, has it?
28. Historic race
This will be a history making Feaster Five. It’s the first time the race has taken place since Bryce Harper left for the Phillies and his old team, the Washington Nationals, won a World Series.
29. National anthem
A special start of the race is hearing from the celebrities, race director and, of course, the singing of the national anthem. Every year it's special. Last year it was Lawrence native and 2018 Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras signing. This year? It's a surprise.
30. Love is in the air
While it's no guarantee, there have been two very public marriage proposals at the start of the Feaster Five, including one with McGillivray, our race director, and wife Katie.
31. Can 10,000 people be wrong?
No. They can't. The energy and goodwill on Thanksgiving morning is a perfect start, in my humble opinion, to the greatest holiday of them all.
32. Ready, set, go.
Enough said. See you on race day.
You can e-mail Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.