Thanksgiving is traditionally known as a day of family, friends and food.
But for some – and apparently thousands of Americans – Thanksgiving is also a day to run.
On Thanksgiving, races called “turkey trots” pop up across the country, making the day of thanks the most popular time to run a race, according to national nonprofit Running USA. In 2016, 726 turkey trots took place across the country, with 961,882 runners finishing the race.
The races are so popular, Williamsburg alone has two on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 23 – which can result in some confusion for runners and their supporters.
The races are also both 5K runs, but Mettle Events’ turkey burn is held in the streets of New Town, and Blue Talon’s race is held in Colonial Williamsburg.
Some of the largest Thanksgiving Day races are in San Jose, Ca., Buffalo, N.Y. and Cincinnati, Ohio, totaling over 12,000 runners each in 2016, according to Running USA.
The two races in Williamsburg are much smaller, but still boast a festive community atmosphere, the two races’ organizers, Ann Hupp and Adam Steely, said.
Big Turkey Burn
Hupp, president and co-owner of Mettle Events, said her company started the Big Turkey Burn last year to give back to the community.
“All the events we own in Hampton roads have 100 percent of the net proceeds donated to designated charity partners,” said Hupp, a Virginia native from Norfolk. “We do a lot of great things. Our local charities … need money. The Turkey Burn is healthy and it’s family-oriented.”
Mettle Events hosts 92 events in 47 weeks along the east coast, from Massachusetts to North Carolina, Hupp said.
In its first year, the event attracted nearly 700 racers to New Town to raise money for local nonprofits and charities. In 2016, proceeds from the race went to R.F. Wilkinson Family YMCA and Williamsburg Meals on Wheels.
This Thanksgiving, race proceeds will go to the YMCA again and FISH, a Williamsburg-area nonprofit dedicated to helping those in need with food, clothing and housewares.
Racers and spectators alike are also encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to the race to donate to FISH.
For Hupp, the race is also a way to show appreciation for New Town.
“We love New Town, the merchants in New Town and we love our sponsors,” she said.
The Big Turkey Burn will have T-shirts, finisher medals, local food and entertainment, according to the race’s website.
Events will also be held for children and attendees can enter a raffle for various food and wine items, the site says.
Blue Talon Bistro co-owner Adam Steely said the restaurant’s Turkey Trot in Colonial Williamsburg is also a community-focused event.
Thirteen years ago, Blue Talon co-owners David Everett and Steely were trying to find a way to get their new restaurant involved and present in Williamsburg.
“Our primary strategy was to have a strong community outreach,” Steely said.
Rather than becoming “advertising geniuses,” they decided to host a community event. A staff member, who was an avid runner, suggested hosting a turkey trot race.
Being the only restaurant open in Merchants Square on Thanksgiving made the turkey-themed race a no-brainer, he said.
“Turkey trot is the busiest running day of year,” Steely said. “So many places host a Thanksgiving Day run. It’s nothing we invented, but it’s really a beautiful run.”
Their first race had about 370 people, but this year they are on track to have 3,000 racers, Steely said.
Williamsburg nonprofit Literacy for Life will receive proceeds from the race this year, Steely said. The nonprofit, which works to improve lives by teaching adults literacy skills, also received proceeds from the 2016 race.
Blue Talon will raffle off dozens of prizes, including wine pies, and gift certificates from other restaurants and businesses.
The event will also have live music and local breweries.
Want to race?
Big Turkey Burn
Time – 5K: 8:30 a.m., kids race: 9:30 a.m.
Day – Thanksgiving Day
Place – New Town in Williamsburg
Registration – Registration is open until the horn starts the race.
Time – 5K: 8:30 a.m., post-race party: 8:45 a.m., 1-mile fun run: 9:45 a.m.
Day – Thanksgiving Day
Place – Merchants Square in Colonial Williamsburg
Registration – Runners can register through race day