10 Turkey Trot Tips to Start a Thanksgiving Tradition

It is almost Turkey Trot Time! Turkey trots are a time-honored Thanksgiving Day tradition. In my mind, they are the PERFECT way to kick off a day of relaxation and indulging (of course, that is, unless you are cooking for everyone).

I love the vibe of Turkey Trots. They are low-key, celebratory, and fun for the whole family. I’m not the only one! Turkey Trots started as a small race in Buffalo, NY in 1896 with a small handful of people, and now more than one million people will line up at a Turkey Trot start line on Thanksgiving morning, making it the oldest consecutively run footrace in the U.S.

turkey trots
We started the whole family Turey trot tradition last year. My friend Gina was the fast turkey to be hunted down!

Last year was the first year we all ran as a family and it was so much fun! My son, Cal, 6, was just asking me if we would do it again this year. And of course, I said, YES! And that I need to write about it.

Because if running a Turkey Trot is the only time you run a race or the only time you run a race with your family, there can be lots of room for error and mishaps. We want to avoid that!

So, in this article, I am going to cover:

  • How to sign up for a Turkey Trot
  • How to train for a Turkey Trot
  • How to get your kids involved in a Turkey Trot
  • Is it ok to walk in a Turkey Trot?
  • What to wear in a Turkey Trot, and
  • 10 Tips for a Turkey Trot success

Let’s start a new Thanksgiving Day tradition, shall we?

Why do people run turkey trots?

Turkey Trot races are a Thanksgiving Day celebration that for many acts as a way to balance out the indulgence that often comes with the holiday. It is also a way to raise money and collect food donations for local charities to help the hungry and/or homeless.

People love to do Turkey Trots quite simply, too, because it is good, healthy fun that puts you in the holiday spirit. It’s often a social workout that helps boost both your physical health and mental health.

How do you sign up for a Turkey Trot?

Turkey trot
My kids had so much fun in the Turkey Trot last year, and my extended family came to watch.

Most towns have their own Turkey Trot. Therefore, all you need to do is Google “Turkey Trot near me” and the current year, and local race event sites will pop up. Most Turkey Trots include a 5k and a one-mile fun run also known as a tot trot.

When you fill out your race registration and online waiver, it will ask if you want a race day t-shirt with shirt size option as well as a finisher medal. You can usually save money by opting out of these options if you do not want them.

Read the race details that accompany the race day registration as it will include information about:

  • packet pickups (which includes your bib number and timing chip);
  • parking;
  • whether strollers, headphones or furry friends are allowed;
  • race time limits;
  • race course info;
  • gear check info,
  • overall and age group awards;
  • race medal request registration;
  • last year’s results;
  • and post-race activities such as music, food, and free post-race massages (depending on the size of the race).

You’ll likely be asked to create a Run Sign Up profile which can then be automatically inputted for the following races you sign up for. This profile also includes phone numbers that your race results can be sent to via email address or text feature.

How long is a Turkey Trot?

Traditional Turkey Trots are a 5k which is 3.1 miles.

Related: How Long is a 5k in Miles?

How do you train for a Turkey Trot?

Turkey trot tips pin
Pin these Turkey trot tips for later!

If you are starting from zero running and want to run a Turkey Trot, finding a couch to 5k running plan is a good idea. Of course, I think you should download my free beginner running plans, but here are some quick tips for how to train for a 5k!

  1. Start with a run/walk, e.g. run for 4 minutes, walk for 1 minute for 30 minutes.
  2. Gradually elongate the time you run after a couple of runs at that duration.
  3. Run every other day.
  4. Be consistent with your training.
  5. Always warm up and cool down.
  6. Have fun and be proud of yourself.

Read more beginner 5k training tips here. 

Related: How to Start Running: A Complete Guide

How do I get my kids to run a Turkey Trot?

If you are signing your kids up to run a Turkey Trot for the first time, I suggest signing them up for the fun run first. One mile is much more doable than 3.1 miles, even for the youthful!

  • Make it all about fun and being proud of their accomplishment.
  • Avoid pressuring them or making it about competition with others.
  • Running is really a sport in which your true competitor is yourself.
  • Run with you kids and allow them to walk when needed but limit the distance they walk.
  • Encourage them to try to run to a marker in front of you.

I share a lot of expert tips for running with your kids here and here.

Is it ok to walk in a Turkey Trot?

turkey costume
Runner-friendly turkey costumes do exist!

Of course, it is okay to walk in a Turkey Trot! Turkey Trots are ALL about moving your body and celebrating good health. For many, a Turkey Trot is just the beginning of their running journey.

In fact, it is completely fine to walk the entire distance of a Turkey Trot. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get to the finish line of a Turkey Trot. It just matters that you have fun and get there!

Related: The Benefits of Walking for Runners

What should I wear for a Turkey Trot?

Turkey trot pin
Pin these Turkey trot tips for later!

You don’t have to dress in a Turkey suit to run a Turkey Trot, but if that’s what you’re feeling—go for it! In fact, most Turkey Trots have race volunteers dressed in a turkey costume to rally the runners and sometimes, be chased down by the leaders.

If you want to go all in on the Turkey Trot vibes, You can wear just a hat like this one and socks, a running-friendly (aka moisture-wicking) turkey running outfit, or the full-on turkey suit!

Related: How to Dress for Running in the Fall

10 Turkey Trot Tips for Race Day Success

  1. Recruit your friends and family. This Thanksgiving tradition is definitely most fun when shared so invite the whole family to either participate or cheer. Plan on running the fun run with your kids. Then, if you can, have a family member watch younger kids and cheer with you run the 5k. We have had great success getting the kids hyped up for running the Turkey Trot if cousins or their friends join.
  2. Dress the part. You don’t have to wear a turkey suit but it definitely makes it more fun if you do! You can get by with a festive hat and socks, or even the race shirt which likely has a turkey on it.
  3. Dress warm. But not too warm! If you do wear a costume, be aware that it may overheat so walk breaks and hydration are important. Otherwise, aim for light layers you can shed that are moisture-wicking. Merino wool running clothes are the best for fall and winter runs.
  4. Wear good running shoes. For those who aren’t consistent runners, please avoid running in old sneakers you have had sitting in your garage for years. Make sure you’re wearing good running shoes that have less than 500 miles on them. Even a short run in bad shoes can cause a running injury. Think of your new shoes as an investment in the future of your health.
  5. Drink and eat a small breakfast before. Usually, I am big on making sure you eat before a race, but for a fun run like a Turkey Trot—just eat a light breakfast of about 200 calories of mostly carbs to get you fueled for the race. It’s not a long run, so you don’t need a to of fuel in your tank. But you still need to hydrate (like 16 ounces of fluid pre-run), especially if you are wearing a Turkey costume.
  6. Know the race day logistics. Turkey Trots can be big races so make sure you know where you are parking, where you are picking up your packet, etc. and leave extra time to navigate and use the port-a-potty. This is especially true if you have kids…because everything takes longer with them!
  7. Pace yourself. Don’t let your kids go out too fast—and don’t YOU go out too fast. That is a novice runner’s
    Turkey trot post
    Turkey Trots can be fun for the whole family OR stressful if you do not plan and have the right attitude.

    biggest mistake. While a mile or 3.1 miles isn’t a super long run—it’s not a distance you can sprint the whole way. So start out like you would on a normal run. Take breaks as needed if you aren’t trained for the distance. No shame in walking ever!

  8. Enjoy the post-race celebration. Resist the urge to do a mad dash back to the kitchen to prep for turkey time. Take 20 minutes or so to enjoy the post-race festivities. They are sure to put you in a good mood for the rest of your holiday weekend. If you can take advantage of a post-race massage, I URGE you to do so. It’s good for your mental and physical health! Also, enjoy the pumpkin treats and hot chocolate that are commonly included at the end of these fun races!
  9. Have fun! Remember your main goal today is to have fun! That goes for your kids. There is zero pressure in a Turkey Trot. You are there to move your body and have a good time—almost as if you were at a Janet Jackson concert, or something. I really don’t know why Janet is what came to mind. But you get the picture. You’re there to enjoy yourself and your kids are too!
  10. Do it again! With all these good race day vibes, your next goal is to make sure you are there for next year’s race. Turkey Trots are an amazingly healthy way to kick off the often-stressful holiday season and start a healthy habit the whole family can benefit from! So, commit to DO IT AGAIN!

Related: When to Replace to Your Running Shoes

Turkey Trots often act as a springboard for new runners to become life time members of the running community. It’s a great way to help others embark on healthy living habits that will enrich their lives for as long as they live. So be kind and supportive of your fellow runners—and hopefully, you’ll see them around next year, too!

If you want guidance with your running goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:


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