It’s Turkey Trot Season Once Again

AJW's TaproomEver since I began distance running in the late 1980s, one of my favorite annual rituals has been to run a turkey trot on the U.S.’s Thanksgiving Day. This uniquely American tradition of running a race the morning of Thanksgiving has been part of the holiday season for as long as anyone can remember. And, since I’ve moved around a lot in my adult life, I’ve had the opportunity to run turkey trots in a host of different places.

One of the great things about these annual events is that they typically bring together families and friends to get in a little vigorous exercise in advance of the inevitable excess that the Thanksgiving meal provides. Often, these races blend parents with little kids in strollers with young adults home from college, and even grandparents bundle up to walk or run a few miles. Every turkey trot I have ever run has felt celebratory and hopeful, which is, perhaps not coincidentally, one of the essential themes of the Thanksgiving holiday.

My favorite Thanksgiving race is the annual 10-mile Arizona Road Racers Thanksgiving Day Classic in Phoenix. While the most common turkey trot distance is five kilometers, the good folks in Arizona like a longer event. When I lived in Phoenix, I always thought that 10 miles was the perfect distance for the day. For years, the Thanksgiving Day Classic was held in beautiful Thunderbird Park, but recently it was moved to the larger Peoria Sports Complex as it’s become so popular. Since the November weather in Phoenix is some of the best in the U.S., it’s no surprise that this classic draws a big crowd.

Autumn aspens - Purgatory Flats Trail

Autumn on the trails. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

In the San Francisco Bay Area of California, nestled in the lower slopes of the East Bay Hills, sits the charming village of Piedmont, home to the annual Piedmont Turkey Trot. This 5k race famously presents fresh-baked pies to the top three male and female finishers as well as the age-group winners.

Bringing together many of the most talented Bay Area speedsters year after year, this little gem in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area provides a wonderful respite in the midst of the chaos of the holiday season. It was also, the first place your columnist ever ran a 5k in under 18 minutes!

Back on the East Coast when I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, I loved to run the annual Earlysville Turkey Trot put on by the local fire department. While the Boar’s Head Turkey Trot with its inflatable arches and chip timing draws the biggest crowd in the area, the quaint Earlysville event is more my cup of tea. Featuring some of the steep hills this region of Virginia is known for, this one is most certainly not a PR course.

This Thanksgiving, I am returning to my ancestral homeland on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and yes, I will be running a turkey trot. However, this year it will be more of the do-it-yourself variety. In years past, when my family has been in places without organized events, we have managed to craft our own and this year will be a special one in Harwich Port, Massachusetts, where my mother lives.

I’ve designed a five-mile course that winds through the historic neighborhoods of the village, cruises right down Main Street, and finishes with a half-mile beach run along the Nantucket Sound. While this year’s version won’t have the community feel of many of the turkey trots I’ve done in the past, it will undoubtedly be celebratory and hopeful and will kick off a wonderful day of family fun. Now, I just need to see if I can convince anyone else in my family to join me!

Bottoms up!

AJW - turkey trot

AJW winning — if only in style — his own turkey trot race, complete with turkey feathers. Photo: iRunFar

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Cape Cod Porter is a deliciously creamy porter-style beer with little bitterness and a dark chocolate finish that is slightly sweet. Reminiscent of some of the classic porters like Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Cape Cod Porter is an old-school beer that would go great alongside any Thanksgiving meal.

Call for Comments

  • What is your favorite turkey trot race?
  • Tell us about your favorite U.S. Thanksgiving or other holiday traditions!