Thanksgiving is the nation's most popular holiday for running events. The newest is Turkey Trot Los Angeles, in Downtown L.A., one of at least 20 running and walking events on Thursday's Southern California race calendar. (See map at the bottom of this story.)
Race Director Brennan Lindner said he believes his is the first Thanksgiving Day race to be held Downtown in recent memory. He's been wanting to stage one for several years, but this year the plans finally gelled for his company, Generic Events.
The Thursday morning race starts and finishes in Grand Park across from L.A. City Hall. Entry costs vary, depending on the participants' age and running distance. Lindner said he's not sure how many racers are expected to come from among the 52,000 residents now living in the downtown area.
While turkey trots draw the same hard-core crowd of runners as other road races, you'll also see a more casual crowd prone to dressing up as turkeys and pilgrims and running or walking at a relaxed pace. A costume contest is a traditional feature of many turkey trot races.
A Generic Events staffer wearing a business suit over a turkey costume has been riding the Metro lines to promote the Downtown run.
The growth in turkey trots has been swift, with some 858,000 runners participating in nearly 500 Thanksgiving Day races in 2012. That's more than double the 400,000 who ran in races on the 2008 holiday, said Ryan Lamppa, a spokesman for Running USA, a nonprofit group promoting the running industry.
California is home to the nation's largest Thanksgiving Day race, Sacramento's Run to Feed the Hungry, with 22,500 runners last year. The Silicon Valley Turkey Trot pulled in nearly 20,000 runners. One of the oldest is Dana Point's Turkey Trot, has its 35th running this year, and more than 16,000 runners.
Most T-Day races range from a mile or less for children's races, to the classic 5 and 10 kilometer road races. Middle-of-the-pack runners will take about a half-hour to an hour to finish the 3.1-mile 5K, about an hour for the 10K. Walkers are often welcome in the races, taking about double the time to finish.
"For many people now it's become a tradition for their friends and family to do their local turkey trot," Lamppa said. And after running 3 to 6 miles, "they can perhaps rationalize that they can have that extra piece of pie or turkey."