Our Top 8 Turkey Trot Race Tips For Occasional Runners

Feeling Rusty? Here's How To Survive The Annual Thanksgiving Run

Running or walking a turkey trot race is an annual tradition that many people around the United States look forward to every year.

Although there aren’t exact statistics as to how many participants take part in turkey trots, according to a popular race registration platform, RunSignup, 756,894 runners and walkers participated in 730 turkey trot runs last year in 2022.12022 Is A Big Year for Turkey Trots. (2022, November 28). RunSignup Blog. https://runsignup.blog/2022/11/28/2022-is-a-big-year-for-turkey-trots/

Considering the fact that this is only one race sign-up platform—and many local or community turkey trot races use in-person or their own online race registration forms—the number of turkey trot race participants is likely closer to 1 million.

But, what if you have never run a turkey trot before? Are you looking for some top tips for running a turkey trot race this year?

In this Thanksgiving turkey trot race guide, we will discuss some of the benefits of signing up for a Thanksgiving turkey trot and the best turkey trot tips for beginners or sporadic runners who want to have a great experience with very little training.

Let’s get started! 

People running a Turkey Trot race.

What Is a Turkey Trot Race?

A turkey trot refers to any running or walking event that takes place on or around the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

Thanksgiving is usually the third Thursday in November, so most turkey trot races take place on Thanksgiving morning.

This is a little different than typical running races, the large majority of which take place on Saturdays or Sundays.

The concept of Thanksgiving turkey trot races is borne out of the idea that participating in a turkey trot on Thanksgiving helps you prioritize getting outside and burning some calories so that you “earn“ your Thanksgiving dinner. 

Having a Thanksgiving morning turkey trot run or walk on your calendar helps ensure that you get some exercise in the morning and don’t overlook working out as the day gets busy with cooking, socializing, and eating.

As a nutrition coach, I do want to note that while I think remembering to prioritize your health and exercise on Thanksgiving is important, I am not a proponent of the mindset that you should exercise to “burn your Thanksgiving dinner.“ 

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This type of diet mindset can cause an unhealthy relationship with food, calories, and your body.

Exercise and eating should always be part of a healthy lifestyle but you don’t have to do one to deserve the other. The body needs nourishment no matter what and your body also needs movement to be healthy.

That disclaimer aside, turkey trot races are usually a 5K distance, which is approximately 3.1 miles. However, there are also 10K turkey trots, half marathon turkey trots, and potentially even Thanksgiving marathon races, depending on where you live.

How Do I Find a Turkey Trot Race?

You can often find a local turkey trot in community postings in your area such as community bulletin boards or online groups.

There are also online resources to find running races in your area, such as RunningIntheUSA.com.2Find All Races By State, City, or Region. (n.d.). Runningintheusa.com. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from https://runningintheusa.com/race/find-by-state/

‌You can also just Google the name of your town or city along with “turkey trot 2023“ to find a local Thanksgiving running race.

Particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there are also increasingly more options for virtual turkey trot races.3America’s Turkey Trot® | Run Virtually this Thanksgiving. (n.d.). AmericasTurkeyTrot. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from https://www.americasturkeytrot.com/

A virtual turkey trot is a race that you can register for online and then you use a GPS running watch to complete the designated distance at your convenience on Thanksgiving or within the window of time provided by the race.

Then, all of the finish times are aggregated from the participants in the virtual turkey trot and you might get a T-shirt, medal, or certificate.

A person signing up for a race.

The benefit of virtual turkey trot races42023 — America’s 2023 Virtual Turkey Trot —. (2023, November 23). Raceroster.com. https://raceroster.com/events/2023/79958/americas-2023-virtual-turkey-trot is that you can complete the run distance at your convenience and you don’t have to travel anywhere.

This can be beneficial for those who have to cook a big Thanksgiving feast or who have small children who don’t want to be dragged to a chilly morning Thanksgiving turkey trot race.

However, you have to have a GPS watch if you want to be part of the official race results of a virtual turkey trot race and you don’t get to enjoy the camaraderie of participating in a community turkey trot event.

However, you can still assemble a group of your running mates or family members and put in the miles together on Thanksgiving.

Can Beginners Do Turkey Trots?

Beginners can absolutely do turkey trots.

You can walk the turkey trot, jog, and/or run a turkey trot.

Compared to many 5k races, turkey trots are especially welcoming and accessible, as many people who participate rarely run or are jogging a turkey trot as their first race ever.

There is no pressure to run fast or even run a single step. 

It is rare that a turkey trot community race would have a cut-off time, so you can go as slow as necessary, even walking leisurely, pushing a child in a stroller, or registering with grandparents and taking your time to finish.

A person training in fall weather.

7 Tips for Running a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot

Particularly if you do not consistently run, just jumping into a 5k turkey trot race can be a recipe for injury.

Here are some tips for getting through a turkey trot for beginners:

#1: Train

If at all possible, sign up for a turkey trot ahead of time or decide that you are going to participate in a Thanksgiving race at least six weeks in advance if you don’t do any running and you want to run the entire 5k turkey trot.

Follow a beginner’s 5k training plan to progress your fitness and reduce the risk of injuries.

#2: Listen to Your Body

It is important to listen to your body during the race, especially if you haven’t trained or it is your first race.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the Thanksgiving turkey trot festivities, or want to stick with family members who might be in better shape than you.

However, go at your own pace or ask loved ones to slow down if you want to do the event together.

A runner smiling.

#3: Pace Yourself

Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? 

Particularly if you haven’t trained, if you start out too fast or go too hard at the beginning of the race, you will end up needing to walk or potentially injuring yourself.

It is better to take the first half of the race easy, even interspersing planned walking breaks, and then pick up the pace in the second half if you are feeling good.

#4: Try the Run/Walk Method

The run-walk method is a great way to approach finishing a 5k turkey trot if you haven’t been training long enough to have built up the endurance to run 3.1 miles without stopping.

Consider walking for a minute and running for a minute, alternating run/walk intervals for the duration of the event.

You can pick how long you should run and walk based on your current fitness level.

People running a race.

#5: Run for a Charity

Many turkey trots benefit local food banks or other nonprofits in your community.

This can help you feel more motivated to get out there and participate—knowing you’re doing something good for your body and for others!

#6: Hydrate

You shouldn’t need to eat or take in sports beverages during a 5k turkey trot.

However, you should drink to thirst, especially if the race is first thing in the morning and you have not had much fluid overnight.

If you are doing a very long event, make sure that you hydrate and fuel your body as necessary.

A peson stretching.

#7: Recover

There’s a good chance that you will be sore after the turkey trot run if you have not been running regularly.

Try to get in some stretching and walking after the race to prevent your muscles from stiffening up.

Also, make sure to have a post-race snack with protein and carbohydrates to facilitate recovery.

#8: Have Fun

A turkey trot race should be a fun and memorable experience. 

Be proud of yourself—whether you are trying your first turkey trot or are enjoying your 50th.

Remember to thank the volunteers, smile, and be grateful for your body.

If you get inspired to continue running after your first turkey trot event, check out some of our beginner training plans for new runners here.

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Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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