Turkey, corn and pumpkin pie are familiar staples found on dinner tables for Thanksgiving, but here in Fresno — well, we like to honor fall’s cornucopia of food by actually becoming them.
Don’t believe me? Just venture to Woodward Park on Thanksgiving to witness the creative participants registered for the 2016 Fresno Turkey Trot — presented by the Sierra Challenge Express Running Club.
“We have some people who want to run the race fast and get a good time, but we have a large number of people who want to come out for the festive atmosphere,” said race director, John Volkman. “We really encourage people to dress up.”
The local running club founded the Fresno Turkey Trot for a number of reasons, he explained, listing accessibility and paying homage to Thanksgiving’s charitable roots as major players. They wanted as many people as possible to be involved.
The Sierra Challenge Express Running Club operates three races — the Monster Mash Dash, the Fresno Turkey Trot and the Fresno Jingle Bell Run, which is set for Dec. 10 on Christmas Tree Lane.
The Fresno Turkey Trot includes two options: 5K run and 2-mile walk cost $30 to enter — with prices increasing to $35 for participants who register after Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The 5K course also gives participants a unique opportunity to race along the same terrain used for state and local cross country meets, and throws down a personal challenge for competitive entrants to try and best the students’ efforts before the state meet on Saturday, Nov. 26.
“We’re expecting big numbers,” Volkman said. “One of the things we incorporated last year was we added wave starts, which allows the course to accommodate more runners.”
Officially starting at 8 a.m., the Fresno Turkey Trot will have three waves based on the run pace, each starting one to two minutes apart. The chip-timed 5K course starts and finishes in front of the Mountain View Shelter, following along dirt paths, paved roads and hills.
Because of the nature of the 5K course, strollers are only allowed on the separate, 2-mile paved walk that is perfect for participants who prefer an un-timed alternative to complete at their leisure. Dogs aren’t allowed to partake in either course.
Overall male and female winners can expect plaques to honor their accomplishments, as well as unique medals for age group placers. But for Volkman, it’s two prize categories that truly make the Fresno Turkey Trot a winner.
“There’s a costume contest to win Marie Callender’s [Restaurant & Bakery] gift certificates,” he said. “We encourage families to participate so there’s an award for largest family group, also.”
Not to be outdone by the flashy hardware and awards, the Fresno Turkey Trot aims to attract attention in another way: socks. Instead of the tried-and-true complimentary T-shirt, participants and volunteers can take home a signature pair of footwear, featuring the Sierra Challenge Express Running Club’s new logo and colors.
Volunteers include students from Buchanan, Clovis West and Clovis East high schools’ cross country teams — all of which will benefit from a portion of the proceeds raised at the Fresno Turkey Trot.
“That was the third key thing,” Volkman explained. “There’s a lot of money that goes toward the needy.”
In early years, collecting the majority of funds that go toward Thanksgiving baskets for local, underprivileged families wasn’t a challenge — the distribution, however, needed a little order.
Thankfully, the Fresno Turkey Trot partnered with a local church, The Bridge, to handle the distribution — helping to provide many people in the community with a meal on Thanksgiving.