4 Things You Didn’t Know About Turkey Trots

A runner in full costume at the Oceanside (Calif.) Turkey Trot. Photo: Ryan Wood

The Thanksgiving Day tradition is as popular as ever.

The idea is over 100 years old and it’s not going away anytime soon. A big feast awaits most on Thanksgiving, so why not run a race that morning to offset the incoming calories later on in the day?

Turkey trots are one of running’s most charming traditions, with races all over the United States slated for Thanksgiving morning and others taking place the weekend before the holiday. Most of the races are 5Ks or 10Ks, though some dare to go even longer (foreseeing larger appetites, perhaps).

RELATED: 7 Things to Look For at Your Turkey Trot

If the turkey trot scene is new to you, here are a few odds and ends from the 2014 Thanksgiving race calendar that may be of interest.

1. It’s been a tradition since the 1800s.

YMCA Turkey Trot race officials recently announced that their 8K in Buffalo, New York is sold out. Around 14,000 runners are expected.

Why the success? Tradition, for starters. The YMCA Turkey Trot is one of the longest-running races in the United States. This year’s edition is the 120th race. Since the first race in 1895, it has taken place every year—even in 2000 when a blizzard covered Buffalo the night before the race. Mayor Anthony Masiello ordered the streets be cleared so the race could go on.

Other YMCAs have similar successful races. The Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot started in 1968 and now has more than 25,000 participants each year.

2. Running and football go together.

Running has made its mark as a Thanksgiving Day tradition, but one sport still rules the roost: Football.

Once again, the NFL will have three games on Thanksgiving Day, including the traditional home games for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. But there are a few Turkey Trots that incorporate football, as well.

The New York Jets are joining NYCRuns to put on the NY Jets Turkey Trot on Nov. 22, the weekend before Thanksgiving. The 5K takes place at the Jets’ training facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Also, the Music City Thanksgiving Day 8/4 Miler in Nashville, Tenn., will run around the perimeter of LP Field, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

3. A beachside Thanksgiving is possible.

Most of the country envisions chilly mornings, perhaps even freezing cold mornings, to run Turkey Trots. Ice storms and snowstorms have been known to hamper many Thanksgiving Day races.

But even the United States’ most mild climates love their Thanksgiving Day runs. Southern California has several Turkey Trots, most notably the Dana Point Turkey Trot in Orange County and the Oceanside Turkey Trot in north San Diego County, both of which run steps away from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures often allow for short sleeves.

Hawaii has turkey trots on all their main islands— the Honolulu Marathon Clinic Turkey Trot on Oahu, the Wayne “Big Dog” Joseph Thanksgiving Day 5K on the Big Island, and an 8.6-mile and 16-mile turkey trot on Maui, among others.

4. Turkey Trots can be lucrative.

It’s not all recreational, though—several Turkey Trots have plenty of prize money up for grabs.

Among others, the Manchester Road Race in Connecticut has more than $50,000 in prize money, including a $4,000 prize for the top male and female. The Silicon Valley Turkey Trot in San Jose, Calif., has $15,000 in prize money up for grabs, plus potentially another $10,000 if a U.S. record is set.

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