Turkey, football, and…5ks? Yep. According to national trade association Running USA, more than 1 million people across the country will take part in a race on Thanksgiving in 2019, making it the most popular running day of the year.

Locally, Jules Vogel, director of Fleet Feet events, has seen “immense” growth in the Turkey Trot STL events she manages in Eureka, Arnold, St. Charles, and downtown St. Louis, which now attract over 12,000 participants in all.

“We try to keep our Turkey Trots low-cost, low-stress, and family friendly, so it’s something everyone can do together,” Vogel said. “It’s fun to be active the morning of [Thanksgiving] and feel a little bit guilt-free the rest of the day — even if you’re not really going to burn off all of those calories.”

Most businesses and schools are closed, Vogel adds, and the run distances are kept intentionally short, so that the events are over before the busy part of the day begins.

“Not everyone likes watching parades and football all day, and how long can you sit around and look at each other?” asked Peter Starykowicz, president of Missouriruns.com, which hosts the St. Louis and Kansas City Turkey Trots. (The former draws about 2,000 people to Tower Grove Park.)

St. Louis Turkey Trot

St. Louis Turkey Trot

“Beyond the kind of magic that’s inherent in Thanksgiving, there’s an electricity when you bring together all these groups of people on a Thursday morning,” said Starykowicz. “These runs have become a tradition not just for the runners but for the volunteers, charities, police, and organizers.”

The perks are great, too. Signing up for the St. Louis Turkey Trot gets participants a fleece hoodie and locally made Strange Donuts at the finish line. Registration for one of the four Turkey Trot STL events includes the choice of a short-sleeve T-shirt, long-sleeve T-shirt, custom beanie, or $10 gift card to Fleet Feet. Plus, Chris Cakes St. Louis caters three of the four events, providing a full, free breakfast for runners. (Let the feasting begin!)

Also, Thanksgiving runs often benefit local businesses and charities. “It’s important to us that the dollars stay within the community,” said Vogel. “We use all local vendors and support local food pantries through canned food drives and monetary donations.”

The St. Louis and Kansas City Turkey Trots similarly encourage participants to donate to area charities.

“It’s a privilege for us to be able to put on these events,” said Starykowicz. “And the great thing is, there are more Thanksgiving Day runs than ever, which gives people a chance to choose something that works for them. There aren’t really a lot of holidays where families get together and do something active. This is special.”

For a list of Thanksgiving Day runs in our coverage area, see page our online calendar.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.
Image: Courtesy of Turkey Trot STL.