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Turkey trots are going virtual. These nine raise money for charity

A man wearing a turkey headdress runs in a race in 2016.
Most turkey trots in Southern California have gone virtual for 2020.
(Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times)

Thanksgiving Day has long been the most popular day in the U.S. to run a race. Every year more than 1 million people lace up their shoes and take off on a 5K or 10K run somewhere in the country before sitting down to a big meal. And this year?

“I don’t think you’ll find a live event anywhere in California,” said Michelle Lindner, organizer of Turkey Trot Los Angeles, which typically starts at City Hall in downtown L.A. That assertion is mostly true. Websites for a few races in Orange County say they’ll host in-person events with staggered start times and social-distancing rules.

Most turkey trots in Southern California, however, are keeping the race tradition alive with virtual runs. If you haven’t done one, here’s how it works: You sign up and then pick the route, time and date for your personal 5K or 10K. You can run alone or with someone in your COVID-19 bubble but not in a group. (L.A. County limits outdoor group gatherings to three households.)

And because it’s virtual, many races are encouraging people to not only run but also walk, bike, treadmill or ride your Peloton; it all counts.

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There’s a good reason to pay to participate in a turkey trot.

Most Thanksgiving races are small local events that raise money to fund programs and charities in their communities. The pandemic might be a good time for runners to form virtual teams and double-down on fundraising for organizations such as L.A.'s Midnight Mission or the Burbank YMCA.

Check to see whether your turkey trot will go virtual this year and support causes you care about. Here are nine virtual races over Thanksgiving weekend that have adapted their rules to these COVID-19 times.

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Los Angeles: Turkey Trot Los Angeles typically draws about 5,000 people into DTLA on Thanksgiving morning to run the 5K or 10K race. Most stand in line beforehand to have their picture taken in front of a huge inflatable cartoon turkey. Now it’s all virtual. “It’s designed so people can do it with their families on the weekend anywhere you live,” Lindner said. “I think if you wanted to go downtown and do the route on your own you could.”

Race organizers will send you a printable racing bib, T-shirt or tank top, finisher medal embossed with a cartoon turkey and a digital finisher badge. All will be mailed to you if you register by Nov. 18. You may run the race between Nov. 23 and 27 and track your results on the free Runkeeper app or a timer of your choice. Then upload results and photos online for organizers to review.

Welcome to our comprehensive gift guide for the 2020 holiday season.

The race hopes to raise $50,000 for the Midnight Mission on Skid Row through sponsors (the United Arab Emirates Consulate in Los Angeles has pledged $15,000) and a portion of the entry fees. Registration costs $37 for 5K or 10K; $5 goes to the Midnight Mission if you forgo a medal. Info: Turkey Trot Los Angeles

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Pasadena: The third year of the Rose Bowl Turkey Trot 5K race will be held virtually. The website invites runners to “trot before you gobble.” Register to run, jog, walk or even skip on a 5K course between 6 a.m. Nov. 25 and 8 p.m. Nov. 27. You can download a race bib and receive a virtual goodie bag; T-shirts cost extra. Entry costs $15 for adults, $5 for children. Funds raised go to the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation, which supports the landmark and is gearing up for its centennial in 2022. Info: Rose Bowl Turkey Trot

Seal Beach: The Seal Beach Turkey Trot suggests runners have someone waiting for them at the end of their run with their medal and goodie bag. Good idea! Participants receive a T-shirt, running bib, finisher medal and a goodie bag. It costs $30 for the 10K and $25 for the 5K. There’s even a 1K for children that costs $15. You can pay an extra $9 to have your race goodies mailed to you or you can pick them up between 4 and 7 p.m. Nov. 20 in Seal Beach. The race supports two charities, Grateful Hearts, which provides essential supplies for the needy, and Project SEEK, a kids enrichment and education program. Info: Seal Beach Turkey Trot

Dana Point: “Tradition can’t be canceled,” says the website of the 43-year-old Dana Point Turkey Trot. The race invites all to “burn pre-Thanksgiving calories” on the route of your choice by running, walking or biking the 5K, 10K or 15K course or a Kids Gobble Wobble for ages 1 to 12. Each race costs $25. You can pick up your T-shirt and medal before the race or, for an additional charge, have them mailed to you. Funds raised will go to Family Assistance Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that tackles hunger and homelessness, and the Marine Corps League, a volunteer nonprofit that looks after Marines and their families. Info: Dana Point Turkey Trot

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Burbank: The Burbank YMCA Turkey Trot usually draws more than 3,000 runners. The virtual race this year asks participants to create their own route and register to run it. The 5K costs $30; 10K, $35; and the Kids Fun Run, $20. Proceeds benefit the Burbank Community YMCA and its community programs. Info: Burbank YMCA Turkey Trot

Long Beach: The race is usually held in Belmont Shore. You can run any distance you like in the “free-range” Turkey Trot Long Beach: 1 mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon. Each costs $30 to enter. You’ll receive a running bib, T-shirt ($10 extra for long-sleeved shirt) that you can pick up or pay $5 to have them mailed. Runners can hit their routes anytime during Thanksgiving week. Funds raised will benefit the nonprofit Community Action Team. Info: Turkey Trot Long Beach

La Cañada Flintridge: The Thanksgiving 5K and Kids’ Mile races are the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, which supports recreational programs for kids and adults. Races will be held virtually; $35 for the 5K, $20 for the Kids’ Mile (12 and younger). You can pick up your racing bib, T-shirt, medal and goodies from 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 25 at the center. Also, you can donate nonperishable food items to be distributed to those in need. Info: Thanksgiving Day Virtual Run and Food Drive

San Gabriel Valley: This was supposed to be the first year for the Five Acres Turkey Trot. The race invites runners to plot a route and run, walk, bike or ride your Peloton between now and Nov. 26. You can choose your distance to run (none is indicated on the registration). It costs $25 for one runner, $45 for two and $90 for a family or team of four. Proceeds go to Five Acres, a nonprofit organization that helps children and families in need. Info: Five Acres Turkey Trot

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Chatsworth: You have three days, Nov. 27 to 29, to run your 5K in the fourth 5K Turkey Trot Chatsworth. The first 40 people to register and pay $20 receive a finisher medal and T-shirt. Track your time with the Strava app; winners will be announced Dec. 5. Proceeds benefit the West Valley Boys & Girls Club. Info: 5K Turkey Trot Chatsworth


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