Why You Should Run A Turkey Trot

Opinion: The pandemic won’t stop me from my Thanksgiving tradition.

Every family has its own Thanksgiving traditions. For a lot of people, that means gathering with relatives and friends or watching the big game on TV after dinner. In my family, that tradition is running a Turkey Trot.

While a Turkey Trot has all the hallmarks of any other road race—a variety of runners, people who show up in costume, a raffle where your ticket is your bib number—the atmosphere surrounding a Turkey Trot invariably feels unique.

In other road races, it is always clear that people are running for something. Whether that something is a personal record, a medal, or a cause, people step up to the starting line with a clear reason for why they are there. And while I think it is fantastic to race with a goal, there is something special about Turkey Trots because, as best as I can tell, the predominant reason for running a Turkey Trot is just for fun.

All of the people at this race woke up early on a Thursday morning to run in weather that is too cold not to wear long sleeves in which they will inevitably sweat through in one mile, and there is no real reason why — other than that it’s fun.

Sure, there will always be competitive racers, but half the people there don’t run regularly. There are groups of friends who walk the entire time with tutus around their waists?and turkey hats on their heads, and parents with strollers, and that one guy who sprints past you every ten minutes only for you to pass him again because he had to catch his breath.

And yes, some Turkey Trots raise money for a cause—like the San Antonio Food Bank Turkey Trot—but unlike other races designed to raise money, the majority of participants aren’t people on fundraising teams. So if you’re not a runner and you aren’t fundraising, at the end of the day, it’d be easier to just donate the money you spent on the race entry fee directly to the organization itself.

So if people aren’t running (at least, not primarily) for the competition or for the cause, the logical conclusion is that they’re running for fun. That is why I run in Turkey Trots. I love the atmosphere of the race. I love seeing friends in matching shirts helping each other fasten on their bibs. I love how everyone cheers when the man who comes first in the 65+ category gets his medal. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get as I cross the finish line entirely out of breath and the satisfaction I feel later at dinner when I put an extra roll on my plate because I earned it.

So imagine my disappointment this year when I found out that my local Turkey Trot would be virtual because of the pandemic. Virtual races have been a solution for a number of annual Turkey Trots, including Trinity’s 53rd Annual Turkey Trot. The virtual trot allows people to run, walk, or jog the course distance without the added worry of social distancing or wearing a mask. Some virtual races, like the San Antonio Food Bank hosts, are choosing to operate on the honor system while others, like Trinity’s, require runners to submit proof in order to get a participation prize.

Virtual races are a logical solution to the problems posed by large-scale in-person races in the time of a pandemic. And while not all Turkey Trots are going virtual, my personal participation will be limited to a virtual race.

I still plan to participate in a Turkey Trot this year, even if it means I won’t get to enjoy all of my favorite parts of the experience. Specifically, I will participate in Trinity’s Turkey Trot because I’m a college student who doesn’t want to pay a registration fee.

In thinking about the community and atmosphere that won’t be present when running around my neighborhood, I’ll admit I wondered if it was even worth it. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it is.

The fantastic thing about Turkey Trots is that you do it for fun, and you do it in whatever way makes it fun for you. The pandemic doesn’t have to change that. If I want community, I can put on a mask and invite a friend to walk the distance with me. If I want the fun atmosphere, there’s nothing stopping me from putting a turkey hat on my head. So whether I am running in person or by myself in a virtual race, I am going to participate in a Turkey Trot this year. No pandemic is going to keep me from the satisfaction of eating an extra roll with the knowledge I already ran off those calories. And if you are considering running in a Turkey Trot this year yourself, I’d encourage you to do it too.