Pulling off a Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot

I have a story to tell about a neighborhood Turkey Trot. But before I get into that, an explanation of what a turkey trot is. The turkey trot is usually a fun run, ranging in distance (usually 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles) that is held on or near Thanksgiving. It’s a celebration of friendship, health, happiness, and a way to burn some extra calories before the traditional big Thanksgiving meals. I don’t know the actual history of the turkey trot but, if I had to guess, it was started by a guy named Jeff somewhere in New England at the turn of one of the past centuries. Jeff wanted an excuse to get out of the house during the annual Thanksgiving family gathering because his sister-in-law had a penchant for expressing her many political opinions and she always brought ambrosia salad with nuts to the family gathering.

I started running in July of 2013. My love of running increased very quickly and I found myself running pretty much every day of the week. On Thanksgiving morning in 2014, I woke up extra early to get in a run in the neighborhood before the rest of the family woke up. I saw a big group of unknown neighbors also out for a run. We all waved and said “Happy Thanksgiving!” from across the street as we passed each other. Those unknown neighbors were endeavoring upon a small turkey trot amongst friends.

The 2014 holiday season passed. More months went by. My love of running continued to thrive. I saw and waved at many other neighbors throughout that year while out on my morning runs. One morning, while running, I decided that I wanted to meet as many of those unknown running neighbors as I could. So I created a Facebook Group and called it the Circle C Run Club. I promoted this new Facebook Group in our larger neighborhood Facebook Group and before I knew it, I had dozens of “members” of this run club.

Since our neighborhood now had a Facebook Group dedicated to running, we kind of organized our own “official” Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot in 2014 and a bunch of running enthusiast neighbors showed up and ran a few miles together. It was grand. We all had a commonality in that we were neighbors and many have since become great friends. The city of Austin has held a really large, organized, and busy Turkey Trot since Jeff moved here from New England at the turn of some other century, raised our property taxes and invented Snapchat, ACL Festival, and absurdly overpriced food served from a truck of questionable origin. However, our neighborhood is rather large, and has enough runners, and otherwise happy and nice people who would prefer to avoid traveling to downtown Austin, finding parking, and risk getting their heels stepped on by an “influencer” on Thanksgiving morning for a chaotic turkey trot. So a smaller and close-to-home turkey trot for the neighborhood has always just made sense.

Over the next few years our Circle C Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot tradition grew and grew. The whole neighborhood really rallied around it and hundreds of folks would get excited about our annual event. We started having neighbors who owned businesses come out and set up tents and give away products and discounts on services. Local businesses would donate snacks and refreshments. Our turkey trot grew organically and it really became a fun and exciting tradition and event.

Now, mind you, our turkey trot was never “official” or truly “organized.” We announced the time and location of our turkey trot on a few Facebook Groups. We never really had permission to organize a “race” (which is kind of how a modern-day, turn-of-some-century traditional turkey trot is organized). We were just a really large group of neighbors and friends coming together on Thanksgiving morning for a group run.

In 2018 our little Thanksgiving morning group run turned into damn near 1,000 people and we overtook a major thoroughfare that goes through our neighborhood. And, wouldn’t you know it, we pissed someone off who really needed to get to the grocery store at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning for ambrosia salad ingredients.

I’m pretty sure it was Jeff’s sister-in-law. She called the police, the City of Austin, and our neighborhood homeowners association to complain about the gaggle of people who were running, laughing, and having a gay old time on Thanksgiving morning in our neighborhood. So the aforementioned authorities contacted us and told us we could no longer promote or organize our neighborhood’s annual Thanksgiving morning turkey trot and impede traffic without the proper permits, traffic control plans, monitored street barricading, and other things of a costly variety.

So, in 2019, we still held our turkey trot, but we didn’t refer to it as a turkey trot. We just promoted it in our run club’s Facebook group as a normal morning “group run” and hundreds of people still showed up. But it wasn’t as big as the year that we were shut down. And a lot of neighbors were sad that there wasn’t as much pomp and excitement as years prior.

And then there was a pandemic at the turn of some century. I think it started with the ambrosia salad.
In recent years our neighborhood run club has really grown to the point where we have a group run almost every day of the week. Many close friendships have been forged and we now have a leadership committee. In early 2021 we decided that we wanted to give our friends and neighbors what they wanted and revitalize our neighborhood turkey trot. We contacted our friends in the larger Austin running community and solicited help and advice on how to organize an “official” turkey trot. And the help and advice came in droves. A small group of us have learned so much about all of the logistics, intricacies, and ins and outs of organizing a true running event.

I’ll spare you all of the details, but will say that we have been working extremely hard for months. And months. And turns of centuries to prepare in bringing an organized Thanksgiving morning turkey trot to our neighborhood. We’ve had to procure engineered traffic control plans, city permits, applications, inspections, and insurance. We’ve had to create street closure notifications in the forms of postcards and posted signage throughout the neighborhood. We’ve had to secure barricading services to close and monitor our streets. We’ve had to hire police officers and race services for timing, scoring, bibs, a start and finish line, and a sound system. We’ve had to solicit sponsors and sell registrations to try to raise the money required to pay for all of the aforementioned requirements, services, products, and vendors.

And the bills have not been cheap. The money required to put on a neighborhood turkey trot could put a child through community college and buy a 2016 Toyota Corolla.

And the people who have been working to organize this Thanksgiving morning tradition have been doing this as a labor of love and commitment to the community. They have full-time jobs, families, children, and other obligations.
We have been working extremely hard in our spare time to re-create a fun holiday tradition for our neighborhood. Yours truly has been keeping a turkey’s eye on the financials and it brought me great joy when I was finally able to very recently realize that through generous sponsorships, donations, and our friends and neighbors registering (i.e. paying) to participate in the turkey trot that we’ll be able to barely pay the invoices that are due.

This morning we’re all convening at our neighborhood’s Fleet Feet running store where our friends and neighbors can come pick up their bibs and beautifully-designed commemorative 2022 Circle C Turkey Trot t-shirts in preparation for tomorrow’s first official turkey trot. All of our hard work has culminated to this point. We can finally give the community what we’ve worked so hard to provide for them. Enough people have registered for the turkey trot that participation will rival that of the year where we grew so large that we were forced to shut down.

And at the same time that the doors open this morning for shirt and bib pick-up, we also have to call into a meeting with the City of Austin and the National Weather Service for details and advisement on the large thunderstorm that is expected to roll into Austin at the same time as our turkey trot. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a heavy heart. But I also have hope. I have a lot of hope. I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to this endeavor and I’m blessed to have worked with a bunch of other people who are so amazingly selfless and care so much about our community.

There are only so many things that you can control in this life. We’ll just have to take it in stride with whatever Mother Nature throws at us and what the City mandates. And so long as I have the legs and heart to keep running and share my love and enthusiasm for it, then that’s all I can do.