Call Us Crazy, But The Turkey Trot Is Our Favorite Holiday Tradition

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays steeped in family tradition. When most people think of Thanksgiving, visions of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie dance through their heads. Some may relax watching the floats in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Others cheer on football games while enjoying second (or third) helpings of dinner. While the day is often a busy one with family travel and Black Friday preparations, in general, Thanksgiving is a cozy holiday—good times, good food, and a good spot on the couch while the tryptophan lulls you to sleep.

In my family, there’s another tradition that’s almost as popular as the feast itself: our local turkey trot. Founded in 1896, Buffalo’s Turkey Trot is the oldest continually run public footrace in North America. My family hasn’t been running the race quite that long, but we have made it part of our Thanksgiving Day for the better portion of the last decade. Every Thanksgiving, rain, shine, or snow, you’ll find us lined up with 14,000 other participants ready to tackle the 8K (4.97 mile) race.

What kind of psychos run on Thanksgiving?

Every November, memes circulate the Internet with a common question: what kind of strange people run outside on Thanksgiving? My favorites are the tweets that joke about making sure you don’t marry into a family that runs 5Ks on holidays. While it may sound unpleasant, the annual race is one of our favorite things to do all year.

My siblings and I first started the tradition of running the turkey trot together when I was in law school. We all incorporate fitness and exercise into our daily lives, so it became a fun way to engage in some family-friendly competition on the holiday.

Each year, my brother shows up in his favorite turkey costume—and he’s not alone. Many of the thousands of runners who compete in the annual race do so in some hilariously festive attire. Even in the sub-zero temperatures we regularly see on Turkey Day, the fun doesn’t stop.

The turkey trot is a tradition that welcomes people of all ages, backgrounds, and athletic abilities.  

When the gun goes off on Thanksgiving morning, racers tear down Buffalo’s historic Delaware Avenue. Families, friends, and community members line the five-mile course cheering and doling out high fives. Like most road races, the front of the pack is filled with elite runners who finish the race in the same time it takes me to tie my shoes.

However, the competition is only a small part of the annual race. In different years, I’ve found myself in the middle of the pack and in the back. At various points, I’ve run the race in the best shape of my life and in the worst. Last year, I ran the trot months after delivering twins and experiencing postpartum medical complications. It was the slowest race time I ever had, but the proudest I had ever been for having finished.

Running in the local turkey trot is about family, community, and tradition.

Starting the day with 14,000 of our closest friends is a great kick-off to what is ultimately a day about community. The joy and spirit of unity is palpable. When the race is over, we all head back to our homes and prepare for the main event. Often, my husband and I host dinner, and throughout our meal, we all share recaps from the morning and memories from races past.

It may not be for everyone, but for us, the turkey trot is a reminder that you’re never too old to go out and play.

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