Thanksgiving running events help bring communities together

For many runners, Thanksgiving is one of the best running days of the year.

That's when they go to their local turkey trot between 8 and 9 a.m. and run what is usually a low-key race with many of their neighbors. With the exception of mega events such as the Manchester Road Race, most turkey trots attract people from a few surrounding towns.

At the race you see not only your neighbors, but local business owners, your kids' teachers and local police officers. Parents run with their kids while family and friends visiting from out of town join in. Sometimes three generations run together. People run with their dogs and push babies in strollers. For many, it's the one event they run all year.

It's not just a great day for the running community but the community in general.

Afterwards, there's always still time to go see the local high school football game. And when you load up that third plate of food or cut that third slice of pie you're able to justify it. After all, you did just run.

So Thursday morning, I was at the at the 20th annual Turkey Trot & Dip at the Mystic branch of the Ocean Community YMCA.

More than 500 people were on hand for the event, in which many people jump in the Mystic River, hence the dip part of the name.

My wife and son ran here two years ago and were back with what now will be a yearly tradition.

Because this is such a low-key run, there's no numbers and times, but great t-shirts, hot chocolate and doughnuts. You're never sure whether to run hard or just jog along with the crowd.

Warming up is difficult because there's so many people you have to stop and talk to. No one really warms up anyway.

When Thursday's trot began, a guy in Scooby-Doo costume raced to the front. Not far behind was a gorilla and a somewhat upsetting sight- five "lumberjacks" wearing short denim cutoffs, flannel shirts and suspenders.

All along the way people chatted with each other and wished each other a happy Thanksgiving. Some jumped in the water, some did not but everyone was soon on their way to football games and turkey dinners.

Just a great way to start off the day.

In this month's issue of New England Running, race director David McGillvray, who heads events such as the Boston Marathon, wrote that the phenomenon of the Thanksgiving Day road race is all about one thing - family.

"It's not about corporate teams. It's not about world class competition. It's about doing something positive with your entire family," he wrote, adding just about anyone can finish the short distances and everyone gets in and out quickly.

At the Thanksgiving race McGillvray directs in Andover, Mass., every finisher gets an apple pie. That's 10,000 pies.

• If you missed a turkey day run, the Dog Watch Cafe in Stonington borough will hold a 3-mile run on Saturday at 2 p.m. Entry is free and runners are asked to donate a nonperishable items for the needy.

Joe Wojtas is The Day's running columnist

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