dallas turkey trot thanksgiving marathons
The Dallas Turkey Trot (Photo: Stephen Evans)

Thanksgiving’s Best Turkey Trots

Buckle up those shoes, pilgrim; it's time for a turkey trot. Do you know which race you're hitting up? We do.

dallas turkey trot thanksgiving marathons
Lauren Steele

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There are many ways to trot this Thanksgiving. For a cause? Run in Sacramento to feed the hungry and clothe those in need—or, if that's not your style, run in Berwick, Pennsylvania, for diamonds. Try the trot in Dallas, where they've set the world record for the largest number of people dressed as turkeys. If that idea freaks you out, what about the Fried Turkey Glide in South Carolina, where it's free and there are shots of Wild Turkey waiting at the finish line? Really, you'll find something for everyone. (Including the “Something for Everyone” trot in Detroit.) Check it out:

The Oldest 

The Buffalo Turkey Trot
November 28
Buffalo, NY

Hailed as the “oldest race in America,” 2013’s race will mark the 118th Buffalo Turkey Trot. In 1896, the inaugural winner of the Trot, Henry A. Allison, and six other runners ran the 8K race for the first time down a dirt road that later became Delaware Avenue—the same route that's home to the trot today. Since then, dirt roads have been paved and six runners have turned into the 14,000 expected to participate this Thanksgiving Day. As part of a history-valuing tradition, runners who finish the race 25 or more times are given the special honor of entering the “Quarter Century Club.” One loyal runner, Gus Gressel, ran the race first in 1907 and then every year following (except one due to a leg injury) well into his seventies.

The Largest

Dallas Turkey Trot
November 28
Dallas, TX

Forty-five years ago, the Capital One Bank Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot found its humble beginnings at White Rock Lake, where 107 runners were instructed simply to “run to the big oak tree and back,” totaling eight miles. Years passed and participation grew, and the race was moved to downtown Dallas. A new 5K race was added to accommodate those who didn’t want to put in eight miles before they sat down for a Thanksgiving feast. Now, with over 40,000 Dallas runners kicking off their holiday downtown, the trot has set world records for the largest gathering of people dressed as turkeys. Time Magazine featured the Dallas Turkey Trot as one of the “Top 5 Fun Runs to Try Now,” because of its sheer size. This race is so big it even has a VIP tent attraction complete with a hot breakfast, coffee, private restrooms, and a coat check for participants who win social media competitions. 

The Best Prize

Berwick Run for the Diamonds
November 28
Berwick, PA

The great American marathoner, Pete Pfitzinger, holds the 9-mile Berwick Run for the Diamonds record with a zippy time of 43:21. While this win may not be as well-known as his 1983 San Francisco Olympic Trials win, the Run for the Diamonds win was arguably more precious. Precious as in precious gems, as every year winners of the aptly named Run for the Diamonds race win real diamonds. Males who score first through seventh place are rewarded with diamond rings, and females scoring first through seventh receive a diamond pendant. A little less shiny and sparkly, solid walnut plaques are awarded to those who make eighth. First run in 1908 with 13 participants, the race now hosts around 2,000 runners every year. The course remains unchanged since 1908, with a start and finish line on Market Street and miles of Summerhill, Pennsylvania countryside making up the miles in between.” 

The Good Cause

Run to Feed the Hungry
November 28
Sacramento, CA

With a goal to raise $150,000 for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) and a promise to donate all dollars raised, Run to Feed the Hungry has made many families in the Sacramento area thankful. The race owner and operator, SFBFS, has hosted this trot for 20 years in an effort to provide food, clothing, education, and aid to 23,000 men, women, and children each month in the community. To gauge fundraising, SFBFS has the community “stuff the turkey,” in which they inflate a giant balloon turkey in proportion to the money raised. Hopefully, the 28,000 runners and walkers estimated to appear in this year’s race are enough to stuff that turkey to bursting. 

Best Pre-Thanksgiving meal

Anthem Turkey Day 5K
November 28
Broomfield, CO

In the Denver suburbs, the Anthem Turkey Day 5K prides itself on catering not just to the racing community, but to the community as a whole. It brings people together, whether by means of running calories off or consuming them. After the 5K, the awards, and the Food Drive Collection, willing participants can take their Thanksgiving feast to the next level with a stop at the photo booth or the pie-eating contest. Winners receive the title of “Fastest Gobbler” and a mouthful of bragging rights.  The race is family-friendly, with Turkey Trot Tots and a four-legged race, a face-painting station, craft tables, homemade dog treats, and pet-friendly water stations. The racing company responsible for this trot, 3W Races, is known for nixing disposable cups at aid stations during their races and having runners bring their own water bottles, reducing the amount of rubbish going to landfills.

The Best “Something For Everyone” Race

31st Fifth Third Turkey Trot
November 28
Detroit, MI

For the past ten years, Doug Kurtis, six-time Detroit Marathon winner, has fearlessly directed Michigan’s largest race. He merged two huge holiday traditions into one by combining the run, to which 200,000 trotters make it out annually, with Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade. The result is a float-riddled, runner-sprinkled extravaganza complete with candy cane and cookie stations and costumes galore. In the early years, the Trot attracted many elite runners who were looking to cool down after the racing season and snag a PR on the flat, fast course. They ended up forming a Turkey Trot with both credibility and family appeal. So, from the kids to the serious racers of the family, there is something for everyone. Three races manage to cater to all 20,000 participants, with names to send you running for the dinner table: The BCBSM Mashed Potato Mile, the 10K Fifth Third Turkey Trot, and the 5K S3 Stuffing Strut. Those who decide to go the extra mile by running the 10K and 5K races earn the title “Drumstick Double Runner.” 

The Best for Burning Major Meal Calories

Atlanta Half Marathon
November 28
Atlanta, GA

With a tagline like “Earn Your Turkey,” you can bet your buttered roll that the 13.1 miles of Atlanta’s half marathon are going to challenge racers a little more than the average 5K. The race organizer, the Atlanta Track Club, takes advantage of the race’s 13,000-participant turn-out by holding a clothing drive and asking runners to wear warm-up gear that can be donated to local shelters. The course winds through downtown metropolitan Atlanta and stays pretty flat, so you'll still be able to walk to the couch after you feast. But for those not looking to spend their entire holiday morning pounding the pavement, there is also a traditional 5K-distance race held at the event. 

The Best Island Getaway Race

Bainbridge Island Turkey Trot
November 28
Bainbridge Island, WA

In 2009, local Bainbridge runner Jenny Campbell sped across the finish line of Bainbridge’s annual Solstice Run and decided that the community was in need of a Turkey Trot. And so it was, that a turkey trot was born. The Bainbridge Island Turkey Trot encourages fitness and aims to benefit local charities. In the past three years, the Trot has raised over $42,000 for Bainbridge’s food bank and Helpline House. The race is still young, with around 700 participants running, but landlubbers find it worth the time and trip to take the ferry across the bay from Seattle to the island. The course runs through Battle Point Park, right on the cusp of the northwestern islands' Manzanita Bay—which makes for scenery as scrumptious as pecan pie. And the race’s size allows more attention for each participant. All runners in costume receive a prize, as do the top three finishers in each age division. 

The Best Small Town Free Fun

Awendaw 5K Fried Turkey Glide
Awendaw, SC
November 28

Lee Ann Reigart was tired of having to drive into Charleston every Thanksgiving morning to take part in a turkey trot. So she and her husband bought a cottage on the waterfront overlooking Bull’s Island on the harbor of Garris Landing, 15 miles from Charleston, and started their own in 2009. She named it the Fried Turkey Glide as a tribute to frying the Thanksgiving bird and doing things a little differently. There is no registration fee, and beer, shots of Wild Turkey, and granola muffins await participants at the finish line. Not to mention, you don’t have to be a runner to participate. On the course—where miles are marked with pumpkins—runners, walkers, bikers, strollers, ATVs and golf carts are welcome. This year, around 100 are expected to enter the race. It’s all in the name of novice. These days, there isn’t much for free, and there aren’t many races with fewer than 150 runners participating. In the little town of Awendaw, population 1,300, they have both. 

The Best Out and Back Race

The Boulevard Bolt
Nashville, TN
November 28

Thanksgiving 2013 will hold mark the 20th annual Boulevard Bolt in support of Nashville's homeless.  The race embraces the spirit of Thanksgiving as a collaborative effort between the local Immanuel Baptist Church, St. George’s Episcopal Church and The Temple Congregation Ohabai Sholom congregations. Since the first Bolt in 2004, over $2 million has been raised and distributed in local agencies aiding the homeless. Around 9,000 runners are registered for this year’s 5-mile course, which runs a 2.5-mile stretch down and back on Belle Meade Boulevard—dotted with gorgeous southern homes that no runner would mind seeing twice.

Lead Photo: Stephen Evans

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