Like food comas and painfully awkward conversations with Aunt Sue on politics, the local turkey trot is a Thanksgiving tradition inherent in the American experience of this glorious holiday.
With the massive onslaught of calories to come, runners and non-runners alike take to the roads to justify that fifth (or sixth) piece of pie, and for some, the 3.1 guilt-induced miles will satisfy their cardio requirement for the entire year. And if you’ve ever run a Turkey Trot, I’m sure you’ve met a person or thirty who told you as much. It’s a strange collection of people that convene on the starting line of this cult phenomenon, with attire ranging from running shorts to turkey costumes to that guy who thinks he’s hilarious for running bare chested in 20° weather. Don’t mess with that guy, he’s capable of anything.
You’re sure to meet many birds of many different feathers at your local Thanksgiving 5K, with several trots attracting upwards of 25,000 people annually. My local race growing up in Springfield, Mo averaged around an 8,000 person flock each year, which exposed me to all sorts of characters unique to this specific event. Below, I’ve used this space to list some of my favorites.
Here are the 10 people you meet at a turkey trot:
1. The Turkey Costume Guy/Girl
You’re gonna meet hundreds of these festively dressed folks at any given trot. Similar to your standard Santa around Christmas time, the turkey/human hybrid is willing to sacrifice his/her pride for the greater cause of showing everyone just how easy-going they really are. These people aren’t doing it right if a smile isn’t plastered across their face during the entirety of the race, because what’s more fun than costumes, and better yet, running while wearing a costume?
Also, expect to see a few of these birds sprint to the lead in the first 100m, which is all but guaranteed to be the photo that the local newspaper uses the next day.
2. The Local Celebrity
If you didn’t have enough reasons already to go trotting, the chance to meet the channel 3 weatherman is sure to get you out of bed! The odds are 50-50 that this guy actually runs the race, but he’s wearing the shirt, which is all that really matters. Expect a semi-motivational speech beforehand over the PA, which you’ll take to heart, because “hey, it’s that guy!”
3. The Family Streak-ers
Calm down, it’s not what you think. I’m talking about the Smith family, who’ve done every trot since ’94, which you’ll know from their matching shirts that tell you as much. Tradition matters to these people, which is why they’re not missing this race for hell or high water. The shirts are key, and EVERYBODY HAS TO WEAR THEM, EVEN YOU JOHN.
4. Your teammate that PRs
Full disclosure: I’ve been this guy. After a long cross country season, this guy has been taking it easy for a week or two, which means, surprise! You just peaked for the Turkey Trot. Your teammates will never let you live this one down.
If you’re this guy, expect your coach to say, “Couldn’t have done that at Regionals?”
5. Hungover dude
This person likely signed up for the race months ago, only to hear that all of his bros were going out the night before. But instead of doing the smart thing, this guy decides to double down with the best of both worlds. And now it’s 7am and this guy is in crisis mode— running is literally the last thing on Earth he wants to do. But that $20 is not going to waste.
You can usually spot this guy wearing sunglasses and slamming Starbucks.
6. The Mayor
Similar to the local celebrity, but the mayor distinguishes himself here because most of the time people have no idea who the mayor is. You’ll find yourself saying, “oh, that’s who the mayor is!” before promptly forgetting the guy’s name within seconds.
Expect the mayor to run the race, because he could certainly use the visibility.
7. One of your high school teachers
You’re gonna see a lot of people that you feel obligated to chat with either pre- or post-race, but chief among those to be avoided are the dreaded teachers. These mind-molders are fine within the confines of a school, but seeing them anywhere else is downright terrifying, especially if you’re still in their class. And since this is a turkey trot, there’s a good chance that you’re also meeting their spouse, so consider yourself warned.
Discussion topics range anywhere from the status of your mother to your plans for Christmas.
8. Your arch-rival
That dude. If you ran in high school, there was always that one guy who you hated to lose to, and now here you both are for the annual Thanksgiving showdown. Call it a turkey trot, but this might as well be an Olympic final.
The arch-rival is one of the main causes of the Turkey Trot PR, which you’ll gladly embrace if it means out-kicking his sorry butt.
9. The Pilgrim
Another costume-wearing fool, this person knows that today wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the brave Mayflower crew. And honoring the legacy of that first Thanksgiving means running a 2:20 first 800m and walking the rest of the way.
10. The guy who asks how long the race is
Feel free to make up a distance. The non-runner thinks that anything longer than a football field might as well be a marathon, so what’s the difference? Also, if you answer their question “5K,” expect a follow-up question.
Happy Turkey Trotting!