On a cold, crisp Thanksgiving Day in 1968, Ulysses “Uly” Vlamides arrived at White Rock Lake for the inaugural, 8-mile Turkey Trot. Outfitted in a turtleneck, slacks and sport coat along with tennis shoes, gloves and a toboggan, the overweight 42-year-old looked at the young, fit runners at the starting line. He felt humiliated then, but eventually left a legacy all his own. Vlamides died in July at age 83, having completed 62 marathons and all 42 Turkey Trots. “Since he died, so many people have called and said, ‘If it wasn’t for Uly, I wouldn’t be running,’ ” says his wife, Mary Vlamides of Bent Tree. The Vlamides family will run in his honor at the 43rd annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot downtown, benefiting neighborhood YMCAs. Uly owned three Majestic Steak Houses, but spent the last 30 years with Ebby Halliday Realtors. Before he started running, Uly Vlamides weighed 250 pounds, smoked, and drank heavily. After reading “Aerobics” by Kenneth Cooper, founder of Cooper Aerobics Center, Vlamides decided to transform his life. So, he ran. “He started stationary running because he was too embarrassed to go outside,” Mary Vlamides says. When he showed up at the first Turkey Trot, he could only run four miles. Mary waited for him at the finish line. All of the runners had passed, but no Uly. She got in her car, drove to him, and rolled down the window. “He said, ‘Tell them not to leave, I’m going to finish.’ He finished dead last. It seemed from then on, that meant more to him than anything.” He lived in the White Rock area, and ran the 9-mile lake loop regularly, sometimes looping twice when he started training for marathons. There’s even a plaque at the lake with his name on it labeled “The Old Boys Club”, which features 70-plus-year-old runners. Eventually, the whole Vlamides family began participating in the run each year, and they made a pact: No one could eat turkey dinner if they didn’t do the Turkey Trot. “Whatever he did, he was obsessive about doing more,” she says. “He traded the bad habits for the good habits. He was quite a guy. I attribute everything to that first Turkey Trot. Nothing could have stopped him. I never stopped running, either.”

The Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot begins at 9 a.m. Nov. 25 at City Hall, 1500 Marilla. To register, visit thetrot.org.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.