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Everything You Need to Know About the Turkey Trot

Everything you need to know about the turkey trot


Oh, Thanksgiving. A day of eating, drinking, and silently fuming over Great Aunt Bertha’s political rantings. Our best advice for staying cool as a cornucopia around extended family this holiday while burning off some of that gravy? A turkey trot, the casual footrace of choice for tryptophan fans around the country. Here’s everything you need to know about this quirky, TM-approved tradition…


It goes way back. It may seem like a goofy ritual (hello, grown humans sporting homemade beaks and wattles), but the turkey trot is a custom with serious roots. The first one happened in Buffalo, New York with six participants in 1896. This five-mile event marked the first footrace in America; even the Boston Marathon didn’t kick off until the following year. Soon, the concept spread to cities throughout the country. On Thanksgiving day in 1972, the first woman completed the Buffalo course, paving the way for female trotters everywhere. Today, this historic 8K lives on as an annual fundraiser for the local YMCA, and it caps out at 14,000 people each year. Some fanatical runners have come from as far as Australia, New Zealand and the UK to participate.


It’s wildly popular. Turkey trots draw nearly one million participants to more than 1,000 races per year (and that number doesn’t include those who prefer a virtual trot). The events, though typically 5Ks geared for families and casual runners, run the gamut from 3.1 to 26.2 miles, and they appeal to weekend warriors as well as elites. Or, to invoke the peer-pressure tactic of choice among junior high schooler’s everywhere: Everybody’s doing it. Which race is your race? Find a list of the country’s 30 best turkey runs here.


It does a body good. We’re in the food business, so we can appreciate the joy of real ingredients prepared with love and shared with friends. But the average American will consume around 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day, which is more than twice the recommended, daily amount. Starting the holiday off with some exercise -- even a slow trot -- won’t cancel out the meal entirely, but it will make you body more efficient at processing all that pumpkin pie.


It does a wallet good. While turkey trot prizes for fastest or best-dressed finishers famously consist of bragging rights or frozen turkeys, some events -- like the Manchester, Connecticut roadrace -- offer as much as $50,000 in prize money. Other, more wacky runs reward every 50th finisher, or only those who correctly predict their pace. In other words, anyone can be a winner on turkey day.

It does a soul good, too. Most turkey trots have a charitable component, with proceeds used to supply Thanksgiving meals to the less fortunate, fight cancer, or advocate for the homeless. The Silicon Valley Turkey Trot has raised nearly $7 million in 12 years for various causes, including providing low-income children with vision screenings and eyeglasses. Proof that Thanksgiving miracles do exist? This is something even Great Aunt Bertha can smile about.

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