Cohoes Turkey Trotters 'Take Back Finish Line!’ Months After Cat-5 Pothole Consumes City

By Dodie Fingerton

Published November 29th, 2015

Cohoes From Google Earth

COHOES — The first townie to win the Cohoes Turkey Trot since 1979 crossed the finish line Thursday, victorious in a race that’s become a national symbol of the sheer tenacity of the human spirit.

Mel Genuflect, 36, of Ontario Street, won the men's division with an official time of 16:13, according to the Cohoes Turkey Trot's Facebook page. Twenty-two-year-old Kenyan, Mebby Mo, won the women's division for a second straight year with an unofficial time of 17:16.

But for most of the 189 runners, the race wasn't about winning or losing — it was about carrying on in the face of the catastrophic Category-5 pothole that consumed a large portion of their hometown back in March.

As runners lined up Thursday in front of the interim City Hall on Baker Avenue, Cohoes Mayor Sean Moose shouted: "Take back that finish line!"

"I'm running for all the people still stuck in the pothole," said Wilma Harrigengis of Manor Avenue. “My family, my friends, my neighbors. I'm representin'.”

Race organizers initially were doubtful there would be a race this year, given that most of the course now lay at the bottom of a deep, dark depression. But after a recent geological survey revealed the perimeter of the hole equaled 3.10686 miles, they forged ahead with plans.

“We saw that as a sign from God,” said organizer Jimmy Fracas. “The Earth opened up, consumed 90-percent of our town and left us with a giant hole that's precisely the circumference of an official 5K. It's crazy! So instead of canceling the race or holding it somewhere else, we just decided to have everyone run one big loop around the pothole. Made sense to us, anyway.”

Riot-proof concrete barricades lined the rim of what’s been dubbed the Cat-5 Concavity to prevent distracted runners — who like to look at their watches every three seconds — from accidentally plunging into the fissure.

Fortunately, that didn't happen on Thursday. The race was a success.

Church bells rang and flags were raised as the last competitor, 400-pound Cohosier, Douglas Prairie, crossed the finish line clutching his chest with a time of 6:23:52.

“I'm not exactly a runner,” said Prairie of Chestnut Street. “But my wife's been down in that hole since March and I wanted to show her that I still love and support her.”

The 42-year-old stay-at-home dad was then rushed to Samaritan Hospital for observation. And with that, the mantra "Spindle City Strong" was heard loud and clear.

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