Few things feel better than sitting down to a delicious feast after working up a solid sweat, and I’m willing to bet that most other Turkey Trot participants know exactly where I’m coming from.
I’ve been running in annual Turkey Trots ever since I took up the sport five years ago, and have joined in on events across the country depending on my travel plans.
I can always count on finding an event to run in no matter where I end up for the holiday, and consider those morning runs my one true Thanksgiving tradition in lieu of the giant family gatherings that I’ve often had to miss out on since moving farther from my relatives.
These widespread Turkey Trots stem from a long history of Thanksgiving Day runs organized by endorphin junkies and tradition seekers in the same vein as today’s participants. It’s not too late to sign up for one of Lifetime’s Turkey Day Runs in Boise, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami or Phoenix!
The first official Turkey Trot took place on the streets of Buffalo, New York in 1896. For reference, the first national marathon race didn’t take place until the following summer as part of the 1897 Boston Olympics, which places the Buffalo Trot among the oldest organized runs in American history. Only six runners competed in the pioneer event, but this initial group kickstarted a holiday ritual that’s become almost as famous as cookies for Santa Claus.
Hamilton, Ontario’s “Around the Bay” race technically holds the title for the first overall road race in North America, while Buffalo claims its own honor by continuously maintaining the same Turkey Trot tradition ever since the original. Today’s Buffalo race travels 8 kilometers, and attracts nearly 13,000 runners.
Among the largest Turkey Trot runs throughout the U.S. take place in Sacramento, California and Dallas, Texas. Sacramento’s “Run to Feed the Hungry” benefits the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services organization and expects about 30,000 participants to run in the 5K and 10K races. In Dallas, the “Capital One Bank YMCA Trot” takes the cake with 40,000 runners and encourages its participants to dress up in turkey costumes – which, in fact, won Dallas a spot in the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records for the “largest gathering of people dressed as turkeys”. Dallas also puts on a “Mascot Run” the day before Thanksgiving, featuring athletic mascots from schools all across the city.
To catch the biggest burn before turkey time, head down south for the Atlanta Half Marathon and Thanksgiving Day 5K, where runners have the opportunity to take on 13.1 long miles in preparation for the feast ahead. For 28 years, Atlanta actually held its annual marathon race on Thanksgiving Day for the ultimate holiday workout, but in 2009 began pushing this part of the event back to the spring. For runners who want to earn more than just a calorie deficit, however, there’s always the “Silicon Valley Turkey Trot” or the “Run for the Diamonds” in Berwick, Pennsylvania. Winners of Silicon Valley’s 5K receive $12,000 in prize money, and Berwick competitors run in the name of diamond pendants, rings, and trophies awarded to the top finishers.
No matter where you end up this Thanksgiving, think about adding a new tradition to your basket and take part in one of the country’s thousands of Turkey Trot runs. You’ll snag some great morning exercise, benefit one of the many worthy causes that these runs support, and get your run on before settling into a comfortable food coma for the rest of the day.
–Author Lucie Hanes lives and thrives in Golden, Colorado, where she seeks out long days filled with rock climbing, trail running, skiing, and trying not to faceplant while doing any of the above.