Thanksgiving Day is traditionally the largest running day of the year, with more 1.2 million runners registering for events in pre-pandemic years. In 2020, the day took a big hit as large scale events stepped back to virtual-only, family travel was reduced, and a late surge of COVID-19 forced the last minute cancellation of even more in-person events. All-told, our platform saw a relatively minor change in the number of races offered on Thanksgiving Day (458 in 2020 vs. 488 in 2019), but a 70% drop in participants (156,380 in 2020 vs. 538,611 in 2019).
So far, things are looking up this year. There have been a few high-profile moves to virtual, and some races continue to lag their 2019 registration numbers, but overall, we are seeing registration numbers that reflect those of 2019 and expect a bounce-back from thanksgiving day races.
There are a few major changes that we are tracking:
- Hybrid options. While it’s now secondary, the virtual option is here to stay – and it’s a great way to encourage participants to join “with” friends and family from across the country.
- Flexible Participant Options. Races are overcoming hesitancy with increased options for event transfers, bib swapping, and deferrals.
- Race Caps. We aren’t seeing the extreme limitations of 2020 that kept most events under 1,000 participants, but some large scale events are still planning on smaller, more manageable field than previous years.
- New policies. Whether it’s as simple as pre-packaged food or as complex as requiring proof of vaccination, races are working with their local and state governments to implement new policies to keep participants safe and health officials happy.
Tracking High Profile Turkey Trots
For an idea of how this November is shaping up compared to last year, we took a look at a few premier events from around the country and their plan for 2021*.
*This probably goes without saying at this point…but everything is always subject to change.
The race supports…BakerRipley, a Houston-based 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to bring resources, education, and connection to their region’s most vulnerable communities and individuals. They serve more than half-a-million people in the region.
In 2019…the BakerRipley Houston Turkey Trot celebrated their 28th year with around 13,000 participants in their live 5K or 10K.
In 2020…the race was fully virtual, carrying on the tradition for many local families.
“The main thing is this is the 28th year, and despite COVID, we want to make sure we continue to have this event. It has become a tradition for many families in the region. We’re all in this together, and by working together, we can accomplish our goal of celebrating our neighbors in the region and living a better life.” – Frederick Goodall, Assistant Communications director for BakerRipley in 2020.
In 2021…the race is set to return to an in-person event. In addition to their timed and untimed options for both 5K and 10K, there is now a virtual race option for families who can’t join on-site.
The race supports…Wheeler Mission, a nonprofit helping the homeless in Indiana. Wheeler is a non-denominational, Christian, social services organization, which provides critically needed goods and services to the homeless, poor, and needy of central Indiana without regard to race, color, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, or religion.
In 2019…Drumstick Dash was one of the largest Turkey Trots in the country, with nearly 18,000 people registered. As a result, the organization raised approximately $920,000 to help them serve their community. A fun twist? Rather than your standard 5K or 10K, the Drumstick Dash options include a 2.75 mile and a 4.6 mile race.
In 2020…the race was forced to go virtual at the 11th hour after rising COVID-19 cases foiled well-laid plans to include an in-person element. Their 10,000 participants took it in stride, continuing to fundraise and share fun photos from their virtual version, and the race put together a touching video thanking their supporters.
In 2021…In-person is coming back! In addition to their trademark 4.6 and 2.75 mile options, the 2021 edition includes a virtual option with fun branding – the #OuttaTownDashAround. Special shout-out: their robust race website includes extensive details with FAQ’s for every topic from virtual race shipping to tools that can help with fundraising.
The race supports…YMCA programs that empower youth, improve community health, and ensure access to all. YMCA Buffalo Niagara is a charitable, community-based organization dedicated to strengthening community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Throughout its history, proceeds raised from the YMCA Turkey Trot have played a vital role in helping youth, families and seniors connect with the resources they need to learn, grow, and thrive.
In 2019…The annual turkey 8K trot – the oldest consecutively run footrace in the world – typically sold out it’s 14,000 person field.
In 2020…The race got creative to maintain their title as the oldest footrace. Despite going mostly virtual, they were able to maintain a 125-person live race (for their 125th year), with interested participants selected at random from the virtual field. And the virtual option allowed participants to maintain their own traditions, as well.
“Thanks to Covid I have not seen my family in over a year – but I still plan on running the Turkey Trot with my uncle like we do every year. We are hoping to start at the same time, which could be interesting given the time difference.” – Melissa Goldsmith, 2020 Virtual Participant
Like the Drumstick Dash, the YMCA Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot put out a fun video celebrating their loyal 2020 runners.
In 2021…The 126th running of the event is in-person, although a virtual option remains for those who cannot attend live.
The race supports…the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. The organization provides families with food assistance to make ends meet each month. Donations from the race help them to serve an average of 1,195 families each month in Bozeman, Belgrade, surrounding areas.
In 2019…the race attracted it’s typical 4,000 participants for a kids race, a 5K, and a 10K – all made more festive by costumes and post-race refreshments.
In 2020…organizers’ expectations for their first virtual event were exceeded when 1,644 people registered to attend and an additional $25,500 was raised for the food bank.
In 2021…The in person 5K and 10K races are back, along with an untimed 5K and a Kids Run and a virtual option. But there is something new, too: a 15K (this year only) to celebrate their 15th year!