The Turkey Trot tradition continues this Thanksgiving in Naperville as the annual 5K race sponsored by the Naperville Noon Lions gets ready to run for its 16th year.
For some, the tradition means dressing like a turkey and jogging, walking, strutting or wobbling through the 3.1-mile course with family and friends.
If You GoWhat: Naperville Turkey Trot
When: 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 28
Where: Starts and ends on Hillside Avenue behind Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave.
Who: Sponsored by Naperville Noon Lions
Cost: Sold out; free to spectators
For many, the tradition provides an opportunity for a pleasant bit of exercise before a day full of eating and giving thanks.
And for the area's elite runners, the tradition brings a competition much shorter than the marathon held Nov. 10 in Naperville.
Well-known in town for its large crowds of holiday runners and its "Run fast. EAT LATER. No penalty," slogan, the Noon Lions' turkey trot sold out 7,500 paying spots and 200 free sponsor spots on Nov. 8, Race Director and Lions Club member Donna Kearney said.
"It is a fun way to start Thanksgiving Day and get a little exercise in a very scenic course in central downtown," Kearney said. "It's very much a family event -- you can come in a costume. If you would like to be competitive we have that aspect, but it's mostly a fun time."
The running begins at 8 a.m. on Hillside Avenue behind Naperville Central High School at 440 W. Aurora Ave., and the holiday gobbling begins not long after. Along with the usual post-race spread of bananas and bagels, the turkey trot offers a pancake breakfast in the school's cafeteria.
In the race's 16th year, Kearney said organizers have taken a more detailed look at runner demographics to see who's coming from where. The numbers tell the story of an event that draws heavily from Naperville residents and their nearby family members, but also attracts about 600 runners from out of state.
More than half of turkey trot participants live in Naperville and 92 percent live in Illinois, Kearney said, yet a new interactive map on the race's website displays Lions Club logos everywhere runners who signed up call home. The map is full of blue circles with yellow "Ls" throughout the entire Midwest, but also displays runners from as far away as Canada, Idaho, Florida, Montana and Washington.
Race demographics also show those who trot once usually trot again.
"We have a very loyal group of people that come," said Kearney, who has been involved with the race either since its first running with 300 people in 1998, or its second go-round the year after. "Over half of the people that run the turkey trot have done it for years."
Among interesting participants this year are a suburban man who is blind and will be walking the 5K with his guide dog, his daughter and a Lions Club volunteer, Kearney said. The field also will include a Naperville-area man who has competed in Ironman triathlons running with a breast cancer survivor in her first 5K.
The race has raised about $170,000, which the Lions Club will put toward its social services program providing vision, dental and diabetes care for students in school districts 203 and 204 whose families cannot afford the care, and toward other area charities such as 360 Youth Services, Naperville Cares and Bridge Communities.