With the summer sun still shining, few people are thinking about their Thanksgiving Day plans. But race organizers should be! Thanksgiving is the most popular day to run a race with over 1,000 events held each year. In fact, Turkey Day races are an age-old American tradition. The first turkey trot was held in Buffalo, NY in 1896 and is still going strong 120 years later. So, race organizers, it’s time to add these tips to your to-do list on how to plan a turkey trot!

Plan Ahead

That’s why we’re writing this now! Every race organizer knows that months of planning must go into any race but, being held on a holiday, turkey trots introduce some unique challenges. Talk to your local government ahead of time about holiday traffic, closures and events. You won’t be able to do a last-minute supply run on race day when all the stores are closed and the local parade could interfere with participation rates. See if you can partner with the parade instead and remember: start promoting early! Your race could be someone’s excuse to not visit the in-laws.

Trot or Trek?

That is the question! You need to decide what type of race – or races – you want to have on Turkey Day. While many turkey trots keep it short and non-competitive, you’ll also find half-marathons with elite runners. We recommend meeting in the middle when you plan a turkey trot: after all, Thanksgiving is a family holiday and people are more likely to participate if they can do it together. If you don’t have the means to host separate races, consider having a special kids’ zone or allowing dogs and strollers in the final wave of your race.

Get Creative

With so many turkey trots, it can be hard to stand out from the flock. Many races put a twist on the traditional ‘trot’ with names like the Stuffing Strut, Mashed Potato Mile, or Gravy Gallop. Race organizers could also switch it up with a unique Thanksgiving-themed obstacle course (avoid the mashed potato pit!) or a flag football style showdown where your runners are separated into ‘turkeys’ and ‘hunters’. Let the turkeys get a head start and see who makes it to the end!

Keep It Festive

There are few times it’s acceptable to dress up as a turkey, but people sure love to do it! Encourage your runners to wear costumes and reward their enthusiasm with a costume contest. You can even have your own turkey mascot to cheer on runners and take photos with participants. Keep the theme going with your swag and awards! Many races give a pumpkin pie to every finisher or frozen turkeys to the top contenders.

Make it Meaningful

There are many ways to keep the ‘thanks’ in Thanksgiving at your race. Leave a space on race bibs for participants to write what they are thankful for and give a portion of the entry fees to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Other races nix entry fees altogether as long as runners bring a donation. If you don’t have the budget for either of these, you can always host a canned food or coat drive at your event. Cincinnati’s Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day 10K has become the largest Goodwill coat drive in the country!

Now remember, there’s no time to waste! Use these tips to start to plan a turkey trot today. If you’d like more tips on how to plan a themed race, check out our blog here. For all your other race management needs, give us a shout!