The Year Without a Turkey Trot

Every November, Americans are bombarded with advertisements and commercials.  We’re encouraged to buy everything from stocking stuffers to new cars, and in the middle of all of it are the turkey trots.  The inaugural turkey trot took place in Buffalo, New York in 1896!  I know, I was surprised to read how long turkey trots have been a holiday tradition, too.  And while there are so many news worthy things happening in 2020 (too many, really), it struck me that this may be the only year without a turkey trot in recent history.

Since the first turkey trot in 1896, Buffalo has held its annual race without fail, making it the oldest continuous footrace in American history.  The tradition started as a way to encourage local runners and their family members to start the holiday off with a fun, healthy activity.  These races have grown to incredible numbers over the years.  In fact, the Dallas YMCA turkey trot often draws more than 20,000 runners from around the world.

Now, I personally have a somewhat unique and complicated relationship with the holiday-themed race. You can read all about My Love/Hate Relationship with the Turkey Trot, if you’d like. Suffice it to say that I have run these races with my family, and have loved the experience of getting up early and spending the morning doing what I love with people I love. The Dallas Turkey trot has been one of my favorite holiday traditions.

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But I also don’t love how these races are often marketed or viewed by the community.  As a woman who is NOT a fan of diet culture, I am firmly against the idea of earning your food.  People shouldn’t feel like they need to run a 10k just to enjoy a calorie dense holiday meal.  There is no amount of mashed potatoes that require running a race.  That being said, I am a little sad to realize that this year I won’t be driving up to Dallas, running shoes in tow. 

This year, things will be very different.  And at this point, I think we all realize that gathering tens of thousands of people onto city streets just isn’t a good idea.  While trail racing may be making some small progress in adapting, we have a long way to go before large, mass road races are going to be realistic.  But that doesn’t mean that runners can find ways to honor the tradition and focus on the spirit of the season; the importance of gratitude.

So what are our options this year?  Well, I’m glad you asked!

The Year Without a Turkey Trot

  • Virtual Trots – Most of the larger races have shifted to offering a virtual option.  Is it the same experience?  Definitely not.  But having a race shirt, medal, and some swag mailed directly to your door doesn’t suck either.  And a lot of races have incorporated social media to allow runners to connect with one another to increase opportunities for interactions and camraderie.
  • Family Run – Yes, the CDC is recommending that we all keep our gatherings and circles small these days.  As a card carrying introvert, I honestly don’t hate this.  But if you’re going to be spending the holiday weekend with your family anyways, there’s no reason you can’t decide to go out for a morning run or walk together.  It’s a great opportunity to take a break from the kitchen and tv, and incorporate a little more calm into the chaos.
  • Friendsgiving Run – Once again, I’m not advocating for getting together with 25 of your college buddies.  But if you’ve been spending time with a small group of runner friends, the quarantine ship has probably sailed.  And let’s be honest, for the running moms out there, taking an hour to get out of the house and decompress with a couple of other runners might be the top item on our “what are we thankful for” list.  Especially if you’re the person on cooking duty.
  • Solo Run – The holidays are fun and exciting.  They’re also draining and stressful.  Having a solid hour of alone time might be the difference between ending the day like a modern day Betty Crocker or a real life Nurse Ratched.
  • Tough Workout – One of the things I love about CrossFit is that the sport usually kicks off big holidays with a big workout.  And it’s not to burn more calories before indulging; it’s because tough work outs are a fun way to push ourselves.  And remind ourselves that we are strong enough to survive the holidays, even if we’re quarantined with our in-laws for far longer than we’d prefer.  You don’t have to go for a run to get the same hit of Serotonin.  Check out Camp Gladiator, Peloton, or Street Parking for some workout inspiration.
  • Sleep In – We’ve already covered the fact that you aren’t required to workout or burn calories or do anything in order to enjoy an over the top, 17 kinds of pie, style dinner.  So if this year has kicked your butt half as much as it has kicked mine, maybe the only way you want to welcome the holiday weekend is by turning off that damn alarm.  And that’s 100% acceptable.  If getting in a few extra minutes or hours of snoozing is what sounds good, trust your gut.

So while it’s definitely a bummer that races are still on hold, we’ve all got so much to be thankful for.  So here’s to hoping that this may be the only year without a turkey trot.  And I’d love to hear from you, do you plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with some sort of athletic endeavor?  Give me a comment, and let me know what it’s going to look like for you.

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