Drawing in over one million runners to over 1,000 races each year, Thanksgiving Day turkey trots are certainly one of the most popular races in the US. It’s easy to see why. These holiday races bring communities together to help support local charities, and they are simply a fun way to kick off the holiday season.
Thanksgiving Day races offer some folks the illusion of balance. Though you won’t burn off the average holiday meal’s calories with the average race’s distance of five miles, you may feel slightly better about indulging later on. That's completely okay. You are getting yourself out there and logging the miles, even if it won't entirely burn off Thanksgiving dinner's approximate average of 3,500 calories.
Other participants simply enjoy the camaraderie of connecting with other runners, seeing strangers dressed as turkeys (among other various things), and even competing alongside their furry companions. Here is a list of our 10 favorite facts about Turkey Trots.
Thanksgiving Day turkey trots are older than the Boston Marathon. With roots tracing back to 1896, the Buffalo YMCA race is the oldest official trot in our nation, and it continues to this day. The Boston Marathon, originally dubbed the American Marathon, began in 1897.
Everyone is welcome! Unlike most races, turkey trots focus more on fun than on competitiveness. The entire family can usually take part, and that often includes the newest members riding along in strollers and even the furry family members. Double-check the rules of your local turkey day race to ensure you can bring your dogs and jogging strollers beforehand.
The largest gathering of people dressed in costumes for turkey trot is 661. The Guinness Book of World Records recorded this number on November 24, 2011, at the Dallas YMCA Thanksgiving Day trot. Rules were very specific. In order to be counted for the world record, costumes for turkey trot had to be a tan bodysuit with plumes of feathers on the back, a turkey beak, and webbed feet. We're seriously wondering how it was running like that!
Women were not always allowed to run these races. It was nearly 75 years after the first Buffalo YMCA trot that women were allowed to compete alongside men. Likewise, the first woman to run in the New Orleans Athletic Club Turkey Day Race was in 1969, 62 years after its inception.
Both Cuero, Texas, and Worthington, Minn. have long considered their town to be the “Turkey Capital of the World.” Once this was discovered around 1972, the two towns decided to hold a turkey race each year. Whichever town’s turkey won could claim the title for the year. There have been quite a few goofy mishaps over the years such as turkeys flying up to perch on top of buildings and stopping for leftover road-side fast food. These occurrences only add time to the turkey's overall race minutes.
Wild turkeys roost in trees and can fly for about 100 meters. They can reach speeds of up to 25 mph on land and 55 mph flying. Most domesticated turkeys, bred for food, are too heavy to fly, but can still run quickly on land. In comparison, the fastest human has been recorded at speeds of 23 mph to 27 mph at a distance of 100 meters.
Though never officially dubbed a “turkey trot,” the Westchester Hare and Hounds Club ran various paper chases in its short history. One such chase took place on Thanksgiving Day in 1878 after three days of non-stop rain. Two to three “hares” set out running, leaving shreds of colored paper to mark their route. The “hounds” would set out 10-15 minutes behind using the paper droppings to follow them. The hares were rarely “caught,” but the outcome of the race sounds a lot like modern-day mud races.
Turkey trots have the best race-day food. Not only will you find people dressed up as turkeys, but you may also even find some turkey to eat at these races. If you are in Andover, Mass., check out the FeasterFive Thanksgiving day five-mile run. The first 9,000 finishers (out of 10,000) get to take home a whole pie. We'd much rather run five miles for free pie than cook one ourselves!
Costumes for turkey trots run the gamut of all things fall and Thanksgiving. Simply showing up for turkey trots is part of the fun. You will see people in full-body turkey outfits, people carrying a thanksgiving meal “table” on their shoulders, people in inflatable riding-a-turkey’s back costumes, and even the typical hand-drawn turkey costume. We’ve seen pilgrims and Indians; turkey-bottom hats and even groups of friends each dressed as a different Thanksgiving meal side dish. The costumes are a huge part of the draw to these events, but don’t feel obligated, many folks just show up to enjoy the race.
Turkey trots vary in distances. You will find quite a few 5K turkey trots, but the average distance is five miles. There are a few Thanksgiving Day races with distances up to a half-marathon. The Invesco QQQ Atlanta Half-Marathon is one of a few longer Thanksgiving Day races, having been reduced from a full-marathon in 2010.
Finding a Turkey Trot Near Me
With their popularity only rising, a quick internet search of "turkey trot near me" can lead you to find a race in your city. If you would rather forgo the hoopla of an in-person event this year, check out a virtual turkey trot.
Participating in these races isn’t only fun and healthy, it is a great way to help out in your community. Many race organizers help to feed the hungry, assist with veteran’s needs, and provide for homelessness.
No matter your reason for participating, get out there and have a good time at one of our country’s most popular, family-friendly events. Happy running!