Turkey Trots 2021: The Fun Stuff

We already provided an update on the 2021 Turkey Trot numbers (and they were impressive!), but everyone knows that the full story of Thanksgiving Day events is about more than just numbers.

The History of the Turkey Trot Tradition

Runners World put out a great article earlier this month exploring the origins of the Thanksgiving Day run/walk tradition. A few key insights:

  • The inaugural turkey trot with 6 participants was hosted by a Buffalo NY YMCA in 1896. The Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot, now offering registration through GiveSignup | RunSignup, has been held every year since (including 2020, when they included a small in-person option to keep the tradition going).
  • While races popped up throughout the early-to-mid 1900’s, the inclusion of women in events like the Buffalo Niagara Turkey Trot in 1972 helped to kickstart the family-friendly reputation of turkey trots. The common use of costumes in the 1980’s continued to reinforce the idea that turkey trots were family fun.
  • By 2016, Running USA estimated that more than 960,000 people joined a Thanksgiving Day run or walk, and indications are that the tradition continued to grow over the next 5 years, 2020’s virtual dip aside.

There are 3 reasons we see for the continued growth of turkey trots:

  • Family Friendly! Turkey trots typically embrace all types of participants, including runners, walkers, and children. On a holiday where families often travel to be together, the turkey trot allows multiple generations to participate together.
  • Charity Support. While most races today support a cause, turkey trots are often hosted by or deeply connected to a local charity, including a range of YMCA-hosted turkey trots in multiple states and the Wheeler Mission Drumstick Dash, the largest Thanksgiving Day run on the platform in 2021. There’s nothing like helping a good cause to push people across the finish line!
  • Tradition. Turkey trots are as traditional as the turkey itself. And as they began to spread, the existence of a turkey trot in every community means the tradition can continue even if your Thanksgiving Day celebration moves locations.

Stories From 2021 Turkey Trots

While we can’t cover all 617,915 individual turkey trot stories from 2021, we did pull out a few favorites from the events our team competed in, worked at, supported, and watched this year.

Fastest Known Turkey at the Berbee Derby

Olympic marathon bronze medalist Molly Seidel tapped into the fun side of competition, setting an FKT or Fastest Known Turkey for her 35:34 at the Berbee Derby 10K.

The Freedom Ride Rescue Turkey Day 5K

First, the important stuff. The Freedom Ride Rescue’s Turkey Day 5K filled their 750 participant cap, making it the biggest event ever for the organization, collected an additional $22,000+ in donations, and embraced their cause by allowing well-behaved, leashed dogs to participate. But our favorite part? The very cool, futuristic golf cart they provided the timing team to help them mark the course efficiently!

Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot Makes a Difference

The Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot in Austin, Texas, is one of the biggest events on a day of big events, with around 14,000 runners participating in 2021. But it’s not all about size – since the event began, it’s raised over $4.4 million for their charity Caritas, and in 2021 alone more than $44,000 dollars was raised through online donations and fundraisingAllie Kieffer, an elite runner, coach, and advocate, caught our attention by using her own platform to help boost fundraising for the race.

We love that she chose to shout out their well-thought out donation levels, highlighting the true impact of every dollar donated!

Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot Smashes the Virtual Version

Given the organization’s mission to aid vulnerable communities in the Silicon Valley, and the extremely large scale of the traditional event (often exceeding 20,000), the Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot decided to run virtually for the second year in a row. But virtual doesn’t mean small or boring – the race still managed to be one of the 5 largest events of the day on our platform, raised nearly $70,000 in additional donations, and engaged participants across the region (and world). Kids, families, pets, and costumed runners connected by showing off their success on social media!

All the Animals at the ORRC Turkey Trot at the Zoo

The Oregon Road Runners Club hosted a turkey trot that really embraced animals! This annual event embraces the multi-generational style of the event, with family rates, runs for kids of all ages, and even zoo tickets for family members who want to join the fun (but not the run). The best part? Costumes ensured that the zoo animals weren’t the only animals at the event!

Chicago’s Windiest Turkey Trot

The Life Time Turkey Trot Chicago faced some challenges – namely, wind. The finish line of the event turned out the be the windiest spot on the race site, on an already windy day, in a city known as the windy city. The morning could have been a disaster – the finish stage bit the dust when a leg snapped off early and barricade lines toppled over! But as any good race director knows, a little extra weight can go a long way, and utilizing extra weights and staking the weighted finish line truss saved the day!

Wind aside, the event was welcomed back to the community with open arms. The race sold out before race day with a huge registration surge in the last week and a half, and a whopping 96% of participants picked up their package (compared to 85-90% on average).

Garnet Valley Turkey Trot Uses Technology to Support the Kids

The Garnet Valley Turkey Trot, supporting Healthy Kids Running Series, included both 5K and 1 Mile options to get both parents and kids active and engaged. Under a new partnership between Action Potential Physical Therapy and Pattison Sports Group, the event drew more than 750 participants. New turkey trot race director Tamara Conan used her years of experience with the Healthy Kids Running Series to get the most out of the GiveSignup | RunSignup platform and create a seamless race day for the local event.

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