Olympian wants title as ‘fastest known turkey’ at AJC Peachtree Road Race

Molly Seidel will run the AJC Peachtree Road Race on Thanksgiving Day in full turkey costume.
Molly Seidel will run the AJC Peachtree Road Race on Thanksgiving Day in full turkey costume.

Credit: Atlanta Track Club

Credit: Atlanta Track Club

This is one of several stories that will be featured in the Peachtree Magazine and delivered to race participants during the week of AJC Peachtree Road Race.

Molly Seidel is one fast bird.

In just her second marathon, the four-time NCAA champion turned pro ran 2:25:13 to finish sixth in the Virgin Money London Marathon this fall. That makes her the eighth-fastest American woman in history on a record-eligible course.

In her first marathon ever, right here in Atlanta, she finished second and made the U.S. Olympic team – the first woman in history to do so in her debut at the distance. She will revive that Atlanta connection when she “returns” to compete on Thanksgiving Day to do the Virtual Running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race.

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In a turkey costume.

Seidel, 26, will be with her family on the appropriately named Great Cranberry Island, off the coast of Maine. On Thanksgiving morning, she’ll stuff herself into the costume and attempt to cover 10K faster than anyone in a full turkey costume ever has.

She’s calling it the FKT, or Fastest Known Turkey.

And that’s only part of the challenge. On that Sunday, she’ll don her normal running clothes and run the same course to see how much faster she can go. She thinks she’ll run at least 30 seconds faster without the costume, but is hesitant to predict a time. “I legitimately don’t know how fast I am going to be able to run this 10K coming off marathon legs,” said Seidel, who ran the socially distanced London Marathon on October 3.

Seidel has been showing up to local road races in a turkey costume since 2015. The costume, which is neither form-fitting nor aerodynamic, made its debut at a small-town Wisconsin Turkey Trot when Seidel ran with her family fresh off winning the NCAA Cross Country Championship for Notre Dame in 2015.

Seidel has been wearing a turkey getup to races near Thanksgiving Day for several years.
Seidel has been wearing a turkey getup to races near Thanksgiving Day for several years.

Credit: Atlanta Track Club

Credit: Atlanta Track Club

Since then, she’s signed a pro-contract with Saucony, and the costume has mostly been reserved low-key events – although in 2016 she ran 34:29 as the turkey to win the Berbee Derby 10K on Thanksgiving Day in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. The sight and shock of a turkey flying by caused a visceral reaction from those left in her feathers.

“I passed this guy and somebody on the side was like ‘dude you can’t get passed by a person in a costume,’” she recalled. “And then the person next to him was like, ‘and it’s a girl!’”

Seidel wouldn’t argue if you described her run in the 2019 AJC Peachtree Road Race as a turkey. She placed 13th in 33:18, 1 minute and 15 seconds behind top American Emily Sisson and nearly three minutes behind the winner, and crossed the finish line with a flare-up of an old hip injury. So, why does she want to run it again?

“Redemption,” she said during a recent Instagram Live discussion, staring directly in the camera with a scowl that was ultimately broken with laughter. “I think it’s one of those incredible historic road races. Obviously this year is a little bit different, but it just seemed like a really fun opportunity to get back into a little bit of racing.”

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Virtual spectators will have a chance to predict the spread between Seidel’s turkey and non-turkey race times in a contest on Atlanta Track Club’s social media. They’ll also be able to hear from the Olympian before and after her runs on the Club’s Instagram Live.

She’d really like to dip below 33:00.

And is hoping for a tailwind.

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