The most gorge-tastic holiday of them all, Thanksgiving, will soon be upon us, and what better way to enjoy guilt-free stuffing and pumpkin pie than a pre-emptive run? In recent years, turkey trots—those festive events that help offset the caloric damage from the Thanksgiving feast to come—have grown into one of the most popular races on the calendar, surpassing even the Fourth of July. In 2015, nearly 500 Thanksgiving Day races will draw participants, from gobbler-garbed families to record-chasing elites, across the country and even as far as Hawaii.
Below, find our picks to get your gobble on in Northern California. But don't wait: These Bay Area Thanksgiving races fill up faster than plates on Turkey Day itself.
1. Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, 5K and 10K; San Jose
Don’t let the name fool you: Tearing up the course, not trotting, is a better descriptor for the pool of talent this race draws every year in its elite 5K division. Last year’s 5K winner, David Torrence, finished in a speedy 13:34, beating out an Olympian and the American mile record holder. But it’s not all about the fast kids: The race also features a popular costume contest to keep things fun and festive. And then there’s the charity aspect: Now in its 11 th year, the Applied Materials event has raised $5 million for local charities and food banks (and the $15,000 in prize money that’s up for grabs, plus potentially another $10,000 if a U.S. record is set, is impressive, too).
2. Quarry Turkey, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon; Fremont
Too busy prepping the feast on Thanksgiving Day to squeeze in a race? No worries: This multi-distance event at Quarry Lakes Recreational Area in Alameda has you covered, with a Saturday, Nov. 28 date. The Quarry Turkey course is made up of mostly dirt fire trails and minimal elevation gain—a plus for anybody who may have gobbled up a bit too much stuffing. But just try not to be tempted by the sweet spread that organizer Brazen Racing rolls out: aid stations brimming with seasonal goodies including pumpkin pie, as well as IT'S IT ice cream sandwiches, a signature San Francisco treat, at the finish line. And the custom finisher’s medal is sure to rule the roost among your race hardware.
For real bragging rights, sign up for the race’s sister event, the Nitro Turkey, held on Thanksgiving Day. Participants in both of those earn the coveted and cleverly designed Double Turkey medal (shown above). Want one of your own? Sign up quick, as the race sold out a month in advance in 2014.
3. Marin Turkey Trot, 1-Miler, 5K, 10K; Marin County
Taking place on the scenic campus of Indian Valley College, this Thanksgiving Day event, the most popular race organized by Marin running club Titanium Racing, has grown to about 1,600 participants after starting in 2000 with just 79 runners. Distances for the Marin Turkey Trot include a 1-miler, 5K, and 10K, and are run cross-country style. The 10K route, an out-and-back, was tweaked in 2014 and all finishers receive a technical T-shirt and mug—get it filled with apple cider at the end. And keep in mind the bounty of discounts, from 10 percent off for a family of two to $5 off registration for each referral.
4. Zoom Turkey Trot, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon; San Jose
To really mitigate the damage during your Thanksgiving feast—which, according to the Calorie Control Council, can add up to 4,500 calories—forget the 5K and knock out a half-marathon. One of the few 13.1-milers on Thanksgiving Day in the Bay Area, the Zoom Turkey Trot , in San Jose (which also includes 5K and 10K distances), takes place on the popular Coyote Creek Trail in Hellyer County Park. Prizes for age groups include (what else?) a turkey.
5. San Francisco Turkey Trot
The San Francisco Turkey Trot —which includes a 3-miler, 5-miler, and kids' Gobbler Chase—sells out every year. And no surprise why: It promises tons of festive fun even for spectators, as the action kicks off with tots and tykes tailing it after the costumed turkey, followed by the longer distances full of spirited San Franciscans dressed up in every imaginable Turkey Day costume: turduckens, vegetables, pilgrims, cornucopias, and silverware.
Not only that, the website, complete with music, and e-mails from the race coordinator, er, Chief Turkey, are hilarious incentive for runners to keep coming back every year.