– There are many places to run a pre-emptive strike on the biggest meal of the year –

By Dan England

 

When the Thanksgiving Day Run began in Fort Collins, it was only one of two running events on the whole Front Range. The other was in Denver, around Washington Park. 

“Now I’ve seen all these other communities add it,” says Ken Forzley, the race director, “and that’s great, that’s what this is all about.”

Indeed, most Northern Colorado cities, and even towns such as Johnstown, will offer Turkey Trots Thanksgiving morning. The 5K races are usually the biggest by far in their respective cities every year, save for Fort Collins, and are a part of thousands of families’ traditions. 

Forzley takes pride in offering one of the first races and having a name other than Turkey Trot. He also likes the fact that it’s a 4-miler instead of the usual 5K, a number necessitated by the route that includes taking participants all the way down Mountain Avenue and through City Park. Most people don’t care about the extra mile, Forzley says, because the route is so cool. 

The 2021 Loveland Turkey Trot. Photo courtesy of McKee Wellness Foundation.

“At times, we get 13-15 family members sign up,” he says. “It’s really cool.” 

The race is competitive because it offers prize money, drawing Olympians in the past and some from Boulder and Denver. But it’s also fun and festive: Probably 50 percent walk the race. In the past it’s drawn as many as 4,000, though last year’s cold weather and COVID-19 concerns knocked that number down to 2,600. The race benefits the Sonny Lubick Foundation, which provides financial assistance to those with cancer in their families. 

Nearly 2,500 registered in last year’s 5K Trot in Greeley and 1,900 crossed the finish line. A cold day—it was 5 degrees at the start—probably convinced some to stay at home. The Trot once drew as many as 3,500, but they haven’t come back as strong from the pandemic. Still, they are hoping for a good crowd for their 25th anniversary. The race benefits the CardioVascular Institute for North Colorado Medical Center (NCMC), which provides cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, and raised more than $32,000 last year. 

“To get over 2,500 for our 25th would be amazing,” says Allison Miller, development program director for the NCMC Foundation. “We are a little bit spoiled. We have a great following already, so all we have to do is just let people know.” 

The races do draw competitive runners, organizers say. NCMC gives away pies, for instance, to the top age-group runners. But most of them aren’t there to set a PR. 

“It’s really about coming back together, and that’s what makes this race unique,’” Miller says. “It’s so family friendly.” 

Many of the bigger cities will draw more than 1,000 or double that, but even the small races do well. Trish Yost, the owner of Fitness Avenue, hosts a Johnstown Turkey Trot every year. This year will be her 10th. 

“It’s a lot of work, but we just love serving our community,” Yost says. “We’ve been here in Johnstown our whole lives.” 

This race is for charity too: Once the race expenses are covered, the rest of the entry fees go toward families nominated by others in the community to receive grocery gift cards. Several businesses sponsor the event, and that money also goes to families.

“We have thousands of dollars going to families nominated by the race participants,” Yost says. 

Loveland’s Turkey Trot, hosted by McKee Wellness Foundation, also raises money for families. The dollars go to families with patients receiving medical care.

“This way people don’t have to choose between their heating bill or chemotherapy,” says Tess Baker, event coordinator for the McKee Wellness Foundation. “The idea is to remove barriers to medical care.” 

Indeed, the race is one of McKee’s biggest fundraisers of the year, and the same goes for NCMC. McKee’s race last year drew 1,400 and usually averages 1,700: The cold weather knocked down their numbers a bit as well.

“People love to come out and gather as friends and family,” Baker said. “It’s such a family friendly 5K. Bring your dogs, you see people with strollers, and we love to see costumes. It’s a timed run, but it’s mainly a fun run.” 

Races and where to sign up

All of these races take place on Thanksgiving Day. Most offer race day registration, but it’s more expensive. Most races close online registration a few days before the event. 

Loveland Turkey Trot — 8:30 a.m. at 3930 Byrd Dr. Register at lovelandturkeytrot.com.

Windsor Turkey Trot — Time to be announced. Located at the Pelican Lakes Golf Course. Register at runwindsorco.com.

Fort Collins Thanksgiving Day Run — 9 a.m. at the intersection of Mountain and College avenues. Register at fctdayrun.com. 

NCMC Turkey Trot in Greeley — 9 a.m. across from NCMC, 1801 16th St. Register at ncmcfoundation.org.

Fitness Avenue Johnstown Turkey Trot 5K — Information may be posted at fitnessavenuecolorado.com or on Facebook. You can also call 970.587.8383. 

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Dan England is NOCO Style’s assistant editor and a freelance journalist based in Greeley.