The Turkey Trot Tradition 8

Fort Worth’s Turkey Trot, which raises money for the YMCA, celebrates its 35th year

For an alien observer of American customs, Turkey Trots would appear as a contradictory phenomenon. Around the country, every year on Thanksgiving, thousands upon thousands of runners lace up their sneakers and hit the pavement. These events typically benefit charities and act as extensions of the joys associated with the holiday.

Turkey Trots vary in “seriousness” and competitive context, but all serve as warm-ups for the day’s real business: the epic meal. The powers that be may as well make charity runs an official part of Thanksgiving. If you don’t agree, just consider some numbers.

In 2013, Running USA released a study that revealed Thanksgiving as the single most popular day of the year to run a race. In that year, nearly 900,000 people competed in Turkey Trots somewhere in the country, a number more than double that of the last study in 2008. To put that into context, the second-most popular day of the year for running, the Fourth of July, only nets about 250,000 runners.

Though it can seem strange to run a race on a day associated with relaxation and food, it actually makes perfect sense: in order to best enjoy a sumptuous spread, one must work up an appetite.

Among all the Turkey Trots in all the cities of America, few enjoy the history and communal enthusiasm of Fort Worth’s very own. If you’ve never participated in a Turkey Trot, then you’re in for a treat: the Moritz Fort Worth YMCA Turkey Trot, held this November 24th for its 35th consecutive year, offers a rare display of community spirit and fun for an exceptional cause.

“The Turkey Trot is our annual Thanksgiving Day race, where all the proceeds go back into the community,” says Chris Butler, vice president of operations for YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth. “The event itself is electric, and to come out and share something with 13,000 people is pretty incredible.”

The Moritz Fort Worth YMCA Turkey Trot forms a major component of Fort Worth’s holiday traditions, for participants and non-participants alike. The day of the race takes on a festival atmosphere, with participants dressed in costumes, teams and families in matching outfits, and onlookers with lawn chairs out to enjoy the spectacle.

“It’s a very fun, family-centered event,” says Chris. “We’ll have people dressed in costumes: pilgrims, superheroes, and last year we had a crew of Angry Birds. For a lot of people, the Thanksgiving tradition is to sit and cheer the runners on.”

An ideal event for runners and non-runners alike, the Moritz Fort Worth YMCA Turkey Trot puts the emphasis on community, rather than competition. Walkers can enjoy the “race” just as much as runners, and benefit the community while enjoying fresh air and a little exercise before the holiday meal. If you need any more convincing, consider the noble beneficiary behind the event: the YMCA scholarship program, which provides the needy with access to the Y’s services and programs.

“Our scholarship program allows us to work with folks in the community who might not be in a position to afford our after school program, or swim lessons, or health and wellness programs,” says Chris. “Thanks to the race, we’re able to provide them with financial assistance to get access to our programs and facilities.”

The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth has 13 branch locations around the city, in addition to a resident camp and sports complex. The mission of the organization is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirits, minds, and bodies, and work to prepare today’s young people to successfully serve their communities.

“We do quite a bit in the community,” says Chris. “Some of the obvious things are our youth sports programs, and other health and wellness programs. We also offer day camps and school age childcare programs, and for middle and high school students, a youth in government program.”

Though many people associate the YMCA primarily with youth programs, the organization actually serves a broad swath of the population.

“We work a lot with active older adults, and have large senior groups in our facilities,” says Chris. “We also have a LiveStrong program that works with cancer survivors, and a diabetes-prevention program. Every YMCA location tries to meet the unique needs of its community.”

Just like Thanksgiving dinner, there’s something for everyone at the Fort Worth YMCA Turkey Trot. The event actually consists of three different races of varying lengths, so participants can choose the course that’s best for them. The 1K Gobbler Trot is a fun run that’s appropriate for any age. Parents who register for a longer race can accompany their children on the Gobbler Trot for free. An untimed event, the Gobbler Trot costs $20 per preregistered participant, and starts at 8 AM.

The two timed events, the 10K and 5K, start at 8:15 and 8:30 AM, respectively. Those who wish to be chip timed for the event pay a small additional fee, and competitive runners begin at the head of the start corral. Walkers are welcome in all events, though they begin at the rear of the pack to give ample room to race competitors.

Want some company? For $11, participants are welcome to bring their leashed dogs along for the fun. The preregistration cost for the timed events begins at $26 for an individual rate that expires on November 6th. The rate increases in the approach to Thanksgiving, with all races costing $36 for day-of registration.

All three courses begin on Camp Bowie at the Westridge intersection. Registered participants can pick up their packets ahead of time at Luke’s Locker locations in Fort Worth and Southlake. To register online, view course maps, or learn more about the event, visit www.fwtrot.org.

The day of the event, come prepared for a spectacle. In addition to the entertainment provided by enthusiastic participants, runners can enjoy live music from the Steve Hill Trio. To encourage a festive start to your family’s holiday, sign the whole crew up as a team. Every participant adds to the fun, and helps the YMCA better serve Fort Worth.

“We always seem to give out more money than we raise,” says Chris. “This year, we’d like to raise $350,000 to $400,000 for our scholarship programs. When you register, you also have the ability to donate a little extra. If every registered person donates a dollar, that becomes a significant amount of money.”

Aside from helping the community, participation in the Turkey Trot comes with some added benefits. After all, if you’ve just run a 5K or 10K, no one will question your second or third helping at dinner. For a holiday meant to celebrate togetherness, there’s really no better way to celebrate.

“We’re very fortunate to have a great relationship with the city, and to be a part of so many people’s holiday celebrations,” says Chris. “Our sponsors, volunteers, and the community have made the Turkey Trot a great tradition. Just to come out, see all the people, and feel all the energy — it’s a great event.”