A Thanksgiving race displays a fascinating cross-section of America.
On Thanksgiving, we feast. But first, we run.
Thanksgiving Day is the most popular day for road racing, as people across the country take to Turkey Trots and Thankful 13.1’s to preemptively absolve the atrocities they’re about to commit with deep-fried poultry and things made of pie.
For many racers on Thanksgiving, the turkey trot is the one and only running event of the year. Compared to your typical road race, rife with dedicated runners with months of training under their belts, a Thanksgiving race displays a fascinating cross-section of America, gleefully bobbing through the streets like a ragtag Macy’s parade. Turkey-Trotters come in every shape, size, speed and temperament: young and old; power walkers and costumed runners; hardcore competitors and people who jog in swishy pants from the mid-80s.
Some come for the competition, some for the fresh air, some for health, some for fitness before the feast and some for the people-watching. Good news: There’s lots of people for watching.
The strange denizens of your local turkey trot:
THE PILGRIM: Runs the race dressed as a passenger of the Mayflower. Infects the podium finishers with smallpox and claims to be first.
CHIPPERROO: Donning her favorite pair of Keds, the Chipperroo power walks her way through the course with frequent high-fives and loud woo-hooing. You think her cheerfulness stems from an abundance of holiday spirit until you realize it is your Aunt Janice, and she has been drinking wine since she put the turkey in the oven at 5 a.m.
THE COMEBACK KID: Brags loudly about the time he ran a 5-minute mile. In high school. Twenty years ago. Has not run since graduation, yet seeds himself in the elite starting corral of the turkey trot. (Spoiler Alert: can no longer run a five-minute mile.)
HEALTHY HOLIDAY-ER: Sniffs with superiority about the organic locavore meal they’re cooking after the race. Throws around ridiculous phrases like “everything in moderation” and “sweet potatoes without marshmallows.” Will be facedown in a pumpkin pie from 7-Eleven by midnight.
DOMESTIC DODGER: Entered the turkey trot at the last minute, just for a reprieve from listening to relatives argue about Donald Trump. Will sit in the blissful silence of her car for a solid two hours after finishing the race.
HANGOVER BRO: Hey! Hey, you guys! This guy got so wasted last night! You guys! Thanksgiving Eve is the nation’s biggest drinking day! Oh, man! Did he tell you how he drank, like, 10 beers? It was some epic carb-loading, you guys. Bro!
THE CALORIE COUNTER: Knows there are exactly 237 calories in one serving of Mom’s mashed potatoes with gravy and 503 calories in a piece of pecan pie. Has crafted an intricate equation in which running burns at least one thousand calories per hour. Wonders why his pants don’t fit come January 1.
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THE ADOLESCENT: Grumbles about waking up early on a day off from school. Falls back to sleep in the car ride to the race. Whips out an unprecedented 17-minute 5K, then makes it back to the car to fall asleep in the backseat before you finish.
VOLUNTEER WITH BANANAS: Seriously, why do turkey trot finish lines think you want to put bananas in your stomach? Everyone knows that’s where the pie goes.
THE “SERIOUS” RUNNER: Is annoyed by the excess of newbies clogging up the starting corral and zig-zagging across the course? Don’t they know you’re a “real” runner? Be nice—perhaps today’s turkey trot will spur someone’s year-round obsession with running. Plus, if you’re rude, Aunt Janice will yell at you.
Happy running, happy eating and a very happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Competitor.
About the Author
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). She lives and trains in Salt Lake City, Utah, with three animals: a labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. Lacke claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke