Who Run The World?

In Defense Of The Turkey Trot

Consider me a convert.

Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Getty Images

For years, like clockwork, I’d wake up on Thanksgiving Day to an Instagram feed full of friends, couples, and families who’d laced up their running shoes in the dark at some ungodly hour and raced a 5K before I’d taken my first sip of coffee. And for years, I’d sneer at the virtuosity of it all: Showoffs, I’d think. How performative.

And I happen to love running! I’ve run four marathons in the 10 or so years I’ve considered myself a “runner,” although I’m far from a professional — any coach would be horrified by my lax approach to training (I believe the official term is “winging it”). In lieu of trying out the latest gear and gadgets, I tend to wear whatever worn-out sneakers I have lying around in my closet; I usually don’t refuel during long runs and barely drink any water.

I’m also not even opposed to running on Thanksgiving Day. I’ll often go for a jog on the beach in the early afternoon before the turkey is carved, just as I do during any other weekend at home where other rigorous activities include eating chips, napping on my couch, scrolling on my phone, and eating my body weight in Sunday gravy. Still, for years I held out on organized turkey trots, if not out of principle alone: After all, why on God’s green earth would one want to wake up early? On a holiday? To EXERCISE?

Will run for beer.

But last year, on a routine jog around a lake near my in-laws’ house, I saw signs for the Florida Turkey Trot presented by Publix. I stopped in my tracks — Publix is my very favorite grocery store (not sponsored, I swear, but @ me, Publix). It was intriguing for a few reasons: There was the location — practically in my backyard and easy to get to. There was a vague yet tempting promise of a “sweet treat” at the finish line. There was going to be beer. In the spirit of trying something new, and because I love sweet treats and beer, I went ahead and signed up.

And pretty soon, I understood why 750,000 people ran a turkey trot last year, and why the race is booming in popularity. I’m a convert and you should be, too — here’s why.

There’s A Sense Of Accomplishment

I’m sorry to report :( but it’s true — go for a run (or a walk! Walking is so good for you!) on Thanksgiving — or any day — and you will feel a sense of accomplishment. On the morning of my race, the humidity level was approximately 92%. In other words, that’s hard to run through. I was sweating. I was huffing and puffing. I probably smelled like a moldy towel afterward. But in the end, I made a time I hadn’t seen since before a foot injury derailed me two years earlier, and the feeling of achievement had nothing to do with the tired “turkey burn” trope. It simply felt good.

You Can Drink A Beer At 8:30 A.M.

Most mornings, I’m simultaneously chugging a cup of cold brew at home while responding to emails and quickly tidying my apartment, getting dressed, and making a futile attempt to look like a human being before I head to the gym or walk to work. A turkey trot is the one time a year I can unapologetically throw it back to my college tailgating days (JK, I never did that) and enjoy the novelty of washing down my sweet, sweet 5K time with a free beer before noon.

Everyone’s So Gosh Darn Happy

With the exception of the New York City Marathon, I often find “race day energy” earnest and woo-woo to the point of eye-roll-y. (Call me a Scrooge, I’ve probably been called worse.) But simply put, pretty much everyone at a turkey trot is in a good mood — and how could you not be, really?

You see parents running alongside their kids’ first race, giving them words of encouragement. There are friends, visibly hungover from pre-Thanksgiving festivities the night before (IYKYK), cheering each other on. Many times, race day fees benefit a charitable organization, or you have the opportunity to fundraise. There are people wearing goofy felt turkey hats! You can’t hate a silly turkey hat.

Simply put, the stakes could not be lower — nobody’s out here for a Boston Marathon qualifying time — and the feeling of running with zero pressure is completely liberating.

You Can Enjoy Snacks On Snacks

When I finished the race, the aforementioned “sweet treats” were abundant. There were muffins. There were cookies! There were lots of other snacks that I can’t remember. Was I planning to bake two dozen pumpkin chocolate chip muffins to take to Thanksgiving dinner later that day? Sure. Was I also going to eat many, many helpings of stuffing and pie? You bet. But in the meantime, I needed to refuel, and it’s a truth commonly acknowledged that muffins > sad, chalky protein bars.