Tania Fischer and Ken Rideout Seek to Keep their Streaks Alive at Local Thanksgiving Day 5/10K Race

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

Next Thursday morning will mark the continuation of a  growing holiday tradition in the Palisades—one that inspires many local residents to get out of bed bright and early to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by working up a sweat during a run through the neighborhood  to help those in need. It’s called the Palisades Funding Turkey Trot and the seventh edition of the annual 5/10K race will feature defending champions Tania Fischer and Ken Rideout—both of whom will try to beat their course records and burn plenty of calories before dinner.

Fischer has finished first in the women’s 5K for five straight years and is the favorite to win again, although she knows she’ll be challenged by her friend and fellow Janes Elite Racing Team member Gwendolen Twist.

“I’ll be running the 5K with Gwen and she’s already told me she is gearing up to beat me,”  said the 53-year-old Fischer, the head cross country and track coach at Santa Monica High. “She is ready to run fast… she is training for the CIM marathon. I’m preparing to run the Club XC nationals in Pennsylvania on Dec 14. I have run several 5Ks to prepare and recently ran the SoCal XC championships.”

Fischer ran one second faster last year (18:53) than her time in 2017 when she became the first woman in the event’s history to come in first place overall.

“The Pacific Palisades Turkey Trot is a great workout and fun event—I love the home town feel and the local vibes,” Fischer added. “I’m hosting Thanksgiving at my house, so it’s a perfect race to run in the morning, then  go home and start cooking!”

Last year, she barely had time to catch her breath before watching Twist cross the finish line on the 50-yard line at Palisades High School’s Stadium by the Sea—the leading ladies in a 5K field of over 1,270 runners.   

“Both Gwen and I are getting ready for Nationals, that’s kind of been the theme and I love coming to this race to do a tuneup,” Fischer said after winning last fall. “It really shows me where my fitness is and I can always compare the times. My goal was to get as close to 19 [minutes] as possible, if I get right around 19, a little above or  below, heading into Nationals I feel confident. We’ve been training together so we’re both at the same level right now. when we went out we were pacing each other. This course has a lot of curves and at one point I almost got tripped so it got me going.”     

After missing the inaugural race Fischer won for the first time in 2014 and has yet to relinquish her crown as “queen of the course.” Her time of 18:47 that year remains the ladies’ record.

Twist is co-coach of the Pali High boys and girls cross country and track teams.

“I love this race and it was really quite fun to run with Tania for about two and a half miles then she took off,” Twist said last year. “It’s my hometown race and it’s a lot of fun to come out here before it starts and see everybody. Being a coach here it’s great to see the kids that are going to be graduating coming in so I have a lot of parents talking to me about their kids. This race is a good one because it has a lot of uphills and downhills, a lot of turns and corners and my goal was to stay right next to Tania. She wins this every year and I thought maybe I could catch her, but I just didn’t quite have enough. I was a few seconds behind her but when it comes to teammates if anyone can beat me I’m glad it’s Tania.”   

Twist, who lives in the Alphabet Streets and has twin boys at Palisades Elementary School, was 11th in the 5K two years ago in 20:22. In May, the 44-year-old won the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon in a PR time.      

Rideout has taken quite a liking to the local Turkey Trot since moving from New York to the Highlands in January 2016 with his wife Shelby and their four kids. He tried the 10K that year and battled winner Tom Comay of Santa Monica all the way to the finish before settling for second place in the 6.2-mile race in a time of 36:25.

“Coming up the last steep hill I thought ‘what sick person designed this course?’” Rideout said. “This is as hard a 10K as I’ve ever run. I was running with the first-place guy most of the way but he dropped the hammer on me at the bottom of Temescal.”

That summer Rideout took seventh in the Palisades Will Rogers 10K on the Fourth of July.

After his runner-up finish the first time he ran the Turkey Trot, the ultra-competive Rideout won it in 2017 with a time of 35:02. He won the Malibu Half Marathon in 1:17 three weeks earlier earlier. Originally from Boston, he averages three or four triathlons per year and uses the Turkey Trot as speed work for longer distances.

“I find this tougher than the Will Rogers 10K because of that last hill on Temescal,” said Rideout, whose current project is a YouTube show and podcast with Hall of Fame boxing commentator and trainer Teddy Atlas.“I’ll definitely be doing the race again this year and afterwards I’ll be chillin’ with the family. I won the Malibu Half Marathon last Sunday in 1:13 and I’m hoping to run the Turkey Trot faster than last year. I’m always trying to be better.”

Rideout made it two in a row last year with a clocking of 34:22 to better his time from 2017 and he owns the two fastest 10K times.

“I love all the people at the Palisades races,” the 48-year-old from Boston said. “It reminds me of old school Americana! And this is one of the few races that my wife and kids come to watch me run.” His three older children Tensae (9), Jack (8) and Luke (6) go to Marquez Elementary while his youngest Cameron (4)  goes to Palisades Lutheran Pre-School.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, 29, of Santa Monica was the 5K men’s winner a year ago in 16:54. It was his first time running it.

He was encouraged to try it by David Nonberg, a 2005 Pali High alum who led the Dolphins to four City swim titles.

“This is a fair course,” Fitzpatrick said. “It has rolling hills, an uphill view of the ocean, wide streets and nice houses to look at. The scenery really helps. It’s not too hard but not too easy.” 

The third time was a charm for Chloe Maleski, who won the women’s 10K in a course-record 40:16, who previously ran track at Duke.      

Ramin Razavi got a warm welcome after setting the 5K course record of 16:30 in 2016.He had just become the new pastor at Calvary Church of Pacific Palisades in the Highands and admitted he still hadn’t finished unpacking after moving to town six days earlier from Boulder, Colorado, where he lived while serving as the teaching pastor at Lifebridge Christian Church.

“This is a very challenging but fair course that tests your racing tactics,” said Razavi, who ran for the University of Miami (Ohio) and post-collegiately for Boulder Creek and Boulder Express track clubs. “You have to be very cerebral in your approach. It was a fun environment and the race supports a great cause in Hearts with Hope. I even got to run through my own neighborhood in the El Medio Bluffs.”

Razavi ran the race with his father Mehdi, his brothers Kamran (a 15-year Palisadian) and Eli and his brother-in-law Daniel from Utah.

Finishing second in the 5K that year was Shane Brouwer, someone all-too-familiar with the track at Stadium by the Sea, where he ran as a member of the Palisades High cross country and track teams (graduating in 2015).

Family is a recurring theme every year, as demonstrated in 2016 by Michael Branch and his 8-year-old son Connor, who ran the Turkey Trot for the first time after having run the Palisades Will Rogers 5/10K on the Fourth of July.

“Soooo much to be thankful for,” says John Closson, VP/Regional Manager of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Pacific Palisades. “It’s been our pleasure to sponsor this event from its outset and we look forward to kicking off Thanksgiving each year with a brisk run. It’s a great way to wipe away the guilt of the feeding frenzy later in the day and community events like this are just one of the things that make living in Pacific Palisades so special.”

It was sort of fitting that David Olds, a 52-year-old from Los Angeles, won the inaugural race in 2013. He may have been unfamiliar with the route, but him crossing the finish line had become a familiar sight in the Palisades.

A longtime participant in the Palisades Will Rogers Run every July 4, Olds felt right at home winning a holiday race in the community he had come to know so well.

“I enjoyed the course, although it was pretty challenging, with lots of twists and turns and very little flat running,” Olds said after finishing first out of about 850 runners. “It was nice touring the El Medio neighborhood and the stretch down towards the bluffs was fast. Grinding back towards Pali High was tough, especially since there was a headwind along with the uphill climb.”

Olds, a member of the Fluffy Bunnies Track Club in Santa Monica, won the Will Rogers 5K  in 1990 in 15:10 and won the 10K in 32:13 three years later.

“All in all I was pleased with my time given that I’d never run that course before. They did a great job for an inaugural event.”

The female winner that year was Sonaali Pandiri, a 17-year-old senior at Crossroads High where she ran cross country and track. The lifelong Palisadian found out about the race a few weeks before and decided to give it a try, finishing 13th overall in 20:48.

Before last year’s race Patrick McKenna, President of Palisades Funding in Pacific Palisades, said:  “I love this run before my Turkey dinner. I am always happy to participate in events in my community that benefit such a good cause and bring family and friends together.”

Palisades Funding, Inc. partners with members of the community to fund private real estate notes and equity investments.

The third annual event, then called the Banc of California Turkey Trot of Pacific Palisades, was the first to include a 10K race and  it was won by 14-year-old Brentwood School runner Ryan Younger  who helped the Eagles take 10th in the Division V race at the CIF state cross country finals two days later.

Jennifer Blair, a 35-year-old software saleswoman from Brentwood, was the women’s inaugural 10K winner in 45:32.