March of the Turkeys

The Turkey Trot tradition treks on

By Don Hurst

Photo: The Ohio River Road Runners Club 37th Annual Turkey Trot takes place on Nov. 26 in Miamisburg; photo: Tracy Collier

Every Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people fill the streets of downtown Miamisburg. Bleary-eyed runners shiver in spandex running pants. Bundled up babies nap in strollers while their parents limber up with high knees. A few psychopaths ignore the cold, wearing nothing but running shorts and tank tops. Combat vets in full uniform trudge around, weighed down by loaded rucksacks. A guy in a scuba suit with flippers flops down the street. And me. I’m the dude in the turkey suit cheering on all these lunatics.

As the mascot, I’m pretty sure these 8,000 people set their alarms just so they could hang out with me in the cold. I am awesome. Who wouldn’t want to crawl out of bed before the sun rises, brave frigid temperatures and then run five miles to get a picture taken with a grown man wearing a turkey costume? Only people without souls.

While the 37th Annual Ohio River Road Runners Miamisburg Turkey Trot race directors Margaret Hurley and Greg Bell agree that the dancing turkey mascot is pretty cool, they seem to believe that it’s possible that runners show up for other reasons. The race is more about family traditions, fitness and giving back to the community. Motivations have to be strong to get people to join eight to ten thousand of their closest friends to run five miles in the cold.

Hurley says that the Turkey Trot is a “helluva guilt run because what better way to alleviate your guilt of Thanksgiving dinner than to run five miles that morning.”

A pile of mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar, cinnamon, and marshmallow topping with a slice of pumpkin pie tastes a whole lot better after a morning of exercise. You just ran five miles, don’t stop at a slice—go for the whole pie! You’ve earned it.

“To run five miles is going to burn off about 500 calories,” Bell says, “and on Thanksgiving that equates to 5,000 food calories. That’s Thanksgiving math.”

You can’t argue with math, people. If in this brave new age of common core 2 + 2 can equal four-ish, then I think we can all agree that running five miles on Thanksgiving equals 5,000 food calories. Eat on. Just make sure to wear the Turkey Trot shirt so people can’t food shame on you.

The Turkey Trot is about more than just stuffing our bellies without guilt. The race has gone on for 37 years. It’s a family tradition. Many of today’s runners participated as children. They grew up believing that you ran five miles before using your face as a turkey shovel. That’s just what you did. Now they are adults and spreading the insanity to their children. Really, aren’t the best family traditions rooted in shared misery?

If running five miles sounds a little too crazy, the race does offer a one-mile fun run/walk option. If running any distance really isn’t your thing, but you still want to be a part of this craziness then you can always volunteer. The Ohio River Road Runners Club’s Turkey Trot is one of the largest, if not the largest, area races that depends solely on volunteers. They need people to help direct traffic, assist runners to the correct starting corral, keep a certain guy in a turkey costume from accidentally wondering into the course during the race (don’t judge me). Besides just volunteering for the fun and the free shirt, nonprofit groups like scouting troops, cross country clubs and school organizations raise funds by working the race as paid volunteers.

Participants can kick off the festivities the day before Thanksgiving at the Turkey Trot expo party from
11 a.m.-7 p.m. at Riverfront Park in Miamisburg. You can beat the rush and pick up your race bib. Vendors will sell running apparel, some even exclusive to the Turkey Trot, like special turkey yoga pants. Local favorites like Lucky Star Brewery and Tomfoolery Outdoors will also have booths. A DJ will play music and you can even get your picture taken and dance with the turkey mascot. Have you truly lived until you have performed the Cha Cha Slide with a grown man in a turkey costume? No. You haven’t.

The five-mile race begins at
8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning with the one-mile walkers/runners stepping off immediately after the fiver milers clear the corrals. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the starting line. Parking for 8K-10K
people can get dicey. That’s not a problem though. Since you’re there early, check out the costume contest at 8 a.m., and of course, the turkey mascot.

Five miles later I’ll meet you at the finish line where you can get your picture taken with me again. We’ll joke about how in a few short hours you’re going to eat my turkey family. Some of you will be so exhausted that you will hallucinate that I am a giant turkey for you to devour. It’s all good. Come on out, continue a family tradition or start a brand new one. You’ll be cold, and maybe a little miserable, but you’ll also have fun and earn that extra serving of pie.

The Ohio River Road Runners Club 37th Annual Turkey Trot takes place on Thursday, Nov. 26 at 8:30 a.m. at Riverfront Park, 3 N. Main St. in Miamisburg. For more information visit or email

Don Hurst is a man of many disguises. His most recent costumes were Han Solo and Ghost Vitruvius. However his most successful masquerade has been as a functional productive adult.

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Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at

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