The oldest continually run footrace in America just happens to be a Thanksgiving Day turkey trot. The YMCA in Buffalo, N.Y., plays host to the race that began in 1896 with six runners on a cross-country route that has since become the city’s downtown.
The action shifted to streets in the mid-1950s. In 2000, after a blizzard blew in a few days before Thanksgiving, snow shut the city down — but not the race. The course was plowed so turkey trotters could keep the city’s proud tradition going.
Today there are more than 1,000 turkey trots held on Thanksgiving from coast to coast. Here are six great Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) races to sign up for — and dress up for too.
YMCA Turkey Trot, Buffalo N.Y.
If you want to run or walk this 122-year-old race this year, register now. The 8K race sells out each year (usually before Thanksgiving) as soon as 14,000 people sign up. The relatively flat point-to-point course winds past historical mansions and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, with lots of locals cheering. “If you’re a first-time runner, it’s amazing encouragement,” said Geoffrey Falkner, communications director for the YMCA Buffalo Niagara. Funds raised go to Y programs for families and children in need; last year’s race brought in $300,000. Entry and info: $50, YMCA Turkey Trot
Manchester Road Race, Manchester, Conn.
Here’s another oldie but goodie. The 4.748-mile race started in 1927 with 12 runners in the small town of Manchester. Today 15,000 runners and walkers sign up — many in costumes and carrying signs — and are cheered on by an equal number of locals. Don’t be surprised to see elite runners Bernard Lagat, Paul Chelimo and Molly Huddle on the start line too. The course is flat, the spectators are legend, and and the race starts at 10 a.m. You must register by Nov. 21; proceeds go to local charities. Entry and info: $32, Manchester Road Race
Thanksgiving Day 10K, Cincinnati
Travelers will like the 10K Run & Walk course in Cincinnati, which takes runners over three bridges in three cities and two states (Cincinnati, Ohio, as well as Newport and Covington, Ky.) The 108th race benefits a slew of charities, including Ronald McDonald House, Girls on the Run and the Salvation Army. The route is hilly and the bridges have some serious up and down. “The course is so fun and so [brings out the] community,” said race director Julie Isphording, a former Olympic athlete who won the 1990 L.A. Marathon. Entry and info: $37 (add $20 if you want a shirt), Thanksgiving Day 10K Run & Walk
O’Side Turkey Trot, Oceanside
Runner’s World magazine last year put the 5K and 10K races on its top-picks list for the “spectacular California course” — you run along the Pacific coast and on the pier — and the competitiveness. Dress up as a turkey or in another holiday costume and you could come home with $100 to $300 in prize money (the 9:45 a.m. contest is at the main stage). Runners and walkers can register as late as Thanksgiving Day; proceeds go to local charities. Entry and info: $38 for the 10K, $36 for the 5K and $50 to run both; O’side Turket Trot
Turkey Trail Trot, San Francisco
The race inside Golden Gate Park is rated “PG-99, material suitable for children under 99 only,” the race’s website says. The off-road races — 5K and 3K — start at the Polo Field and wind along trails with some hills. Turkeys, Pilgrims and other costumes are more than welcome (“the wackier, the better,” race director Steve Woo said). Each adult entry allows one child 10 and younger to compete for free in the Kids Gobbler Race, a 100-meter sprint in which little ones try to outrun a big turkey (well, someone dressed as a turkey). Proceeds benefit the track and field program at Lowell High School in San Francisco. Entry and info: $40, Turkey Trail Trot