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How Turkey Trots Became One of the Most Popular Thanksgiving Traditions

There’s nothing quite like that first bite of stuffing, sweet potatoes, turkey, or cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. But whatever delicious dish you choose as your first Turkey Day taste, we guarantee it’ll taste even sweeter if it comes after you’ve taken part in one of the most popular fourth-Thursday-of-November traditions: the Turkey Trot.

Thanksgiving-day races actually got their start in New York State. The very first Turkey Trot took place in Buffalo in 1896, when six participants took part in an 8K race hosted by the local YMCA. That first year, only four runners finished the race, as one dropped out after just a couple miles and the other did when his “late breakfast refused to keep in its proper place.” Within a few decades, Turkey Trots were being held across the country, in cities such as New Orleans, Cincinnati, and even Upstate New York’s Troy, whose trot got its start in 1916, making it the nation’s 16th oldest. The first Troy Turkey Trot also saw only six runners compete, but since then it has grown into an event that sees more than 7,000 participants come out to race in a 10K, 5K, 1-mile run and 1-mile walk through Downtown Troy. This year’s trot will raise money for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and Joseph’s House & Shelter, and will feature a costume contest with cash prizes.

Schenectady got its own Turkey Trot, the Cardiac Classic, in 1981. This annual event is a fundraiser for the Foundation for Ellis Medicine and Kingsway Community is proud to be a platinum sponsor.  The event takes place in the Electric City’s Central Park and in most years the 5K run is accompanied by a wellness walk and kid fun run.

As for that first Turkey Trot out in Buffalo? It’s been run every single year since, including last year, when 125 randomly-selected runners were allowed to race, despite the pandemic. And the one thing that hasn’t changed in 125 years of Turkey Trots? There’ll be mashed potatoes waiting for you at the finish line.