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Trotting for a Cause

Many Americans spend Thanksgiving morning running in turkey trots, races that support charities.

By Amy Barth

On Thanksgiving Day, many families across the U.S. will gather together for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. But some people have another tradition that day, one that likely helps them work up a big appetite. It’s a race called a turkey trot!

People run in turkey trots to raise money for charities. Many of the races collect food or donations for families that can’t afford a meal over the holidays. Both kids and adults take part in these fun runs, many even dressing up as turkeys or other characters.


From Oregon to Massachusetts, hundreds of turkey trots take place around the U.S. on Thanksgiving. The biggest one is the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot in Texas. Nearly 40,000 runners and walkers are expected to show up this year. In 2011, the event set a world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as turkeys! (There were 661 people wearing turkey costumes.) But Buffalo, New York, has the honor of hosting the oldest turkey trot, which first took place in 1896.

The Plymouth, Massachusetts, turkey trots are unique because they take place in the town where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, back in 1621. A flat 3-mile race is held as well as a hilly 5-mile race. The longer race starts at Plymouth Rock, where Plymouth’s founders are thought to have first set foot in America nearly 400 years ago. Racers also pass a replica (copy) of the Mayflower, the ship that brought Plymouth’s first European settlers here, who are known as the Pilgrims.

This Thanksgiving, 10-year-old Noah Brilliant plans to race in his third Plymouth Turkey Trot. “I train by running around my neighborhood,” says Noah. He will join the 3-mile race, which takes place on Old Sandwich Road—the oldest public road in America. He hopes to cross the finish line in less than 23 minutes. “The sights during the race are really cool. I like seeing Plymouth Rock,” says Noah.

Craig Brenner, who organizes the two turkey trots in Plymouth, is even looking forward to future turkey trots. “We’re already getting excited for the 2021 turkey trot. That will be the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving. It’ll be bigger than ever!”

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