Among the many traditions we experience on Thanksgiving, there is one that cannot be denied due to its simple popularity. This is the Turkey Trot. You may know it as the Gobbler or Pie Run, etc. No matter the title, the event is the same, a race on Thanksgiving morning!
I had the privilege of working with the organizers of the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot located in Clearwater, Florida. As Turkey Trots go, this is one of the largest, with a participant field of close to 20,000 people. This was our first year powering their online registration and my job was to assist at the three early shirts & bib pick up events throughout Clearwater the week of Thanksgiving.
Everything went smoothly, the tell-tale signs of an experienced Race Committee (and online registration provider). The final event was the Kick-Off Party located in the football stadium of Clearwater High School on Thanksgiving eve. Over 5,000 folks attended to not only check in, but also enjoy the free food, drinks, music and festivities around the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot. For me, this was the pinnacle of the experience, even though I would never see race day (I would be back home at 3:00 am race morning).
Now, it may seem odd that I can say this, the “pinnacle of my experience” without even setting step on course race day for the Turkey Trot. But it is the truth, and here is why.
Throughout the week, and in particular at the Kick-Off Party, I marveled at the numbers of people picking up race bibs and shirts, not just for themselves, but for others. While I felt bad for the poor soul in charge of compiling all the confirmations and gathering all the shirts and bibs for family and friends, I also chuckled that it was readily apparent this was a normal “errand” to most of these people. This was routine, an act akin to the giant grocery shop, getting the turkey, picking up family at the airport and other odds and ends in preparation for Thanksgiving Day. They came in all types; Dad picking up for the kids, Mom picking up for kids and relatives, Grandparents picking up for their children and grandchildren, couples showing up, friends picking up for friends, etc. Everyone had a laugh, a joyous excitement for not only reuniting with family and friends, but also for the anticipation of the big event the next day – the Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.
Thus, witnessing this, it became clear to me. The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot is special. Because it is not a race (albeit there were some competitive runners returning), it was a true gathering of family and friends, for a couple of hours on one of the most traditional holidays; Thanksgiving. Rather than a race, it was in the true meaning of a Trot with loved ones. The Turkey Trot was the start to a wonderful day and weekend surrounded by loved ones giving thanks in their lives. The race was not timed except for the very top finishers, yet everyone was excited to get out and walk or run, with family, spouses, children and friends.
So in conclusion, perhaps this is the reason for the huge popularity of Thanksgiving Day races that take place in the thousands across the country. The Turkey Trot is not just an excuse to splurge on a wonderful meal later in the day; rather it was a true gathering of family and friends as witness by what I experienced not at the race, but at all the activity prior to the race.
It was a marvelous experience for me and a hearty thanks goes out to the West Florida Y’ Runners Club and the City of Clearwater Parks & Recreation Department. We at SignMeUp hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you all happiness and health this Holiday season!