Turkey Trot attracts large cross-section of runners, spectators

Record turnout

John Pye, right, and members of his family were among the thousands who participated in
Thursday’s Turkey Trot.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine


By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

 Some of the more than 6,000 runners who showed up on Thanksgiving Day for the Turkey Trot were there just to avoid feeling guilty about the meal they would indulge in later in the day.

Others were there to support family members or friends who ran either the 5, 10 or 15K division. Dale French just couldn’t miss it, although she is about eight months pregnant.

She walked the course for the first time in her seven years of participating.

“It’s a fabulous event,” she said. “It’s just a great way to start my day, stay active and be a part of the community. It’s a great tradition.”

Indeed. So much so that it has grown to become the largest race in Tallahassee. 

The Turkey Trot has attracted people who just go to tailgate. Some run with babies in strollers, while others have their dogs in tow.

Nowadays, vendors show up to hawk their businesses – something that wasn’t viable during the early days of the race that has undergone several name changes over the past 30-plus years before the Gulf Winds Track Club settled on Turkey Trot.

This year’s Turkey Trot attracted a large crowd of runner and spectators to the Southwood neighborhood.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

This year’s running at Southwood was the 17th in the neighborhood. After some negotiations that included participation by former city commissioner Gil Ziffer, developer Port St. Joe gave the green light for Southwood to be home of the race.

What has transpired is sometimes mind-boggling to David Yon, one of the event’s founders and president of the track club.

“It’s one of those things when you’re putting it together you go ‘this is not going to work,’ ” Yon said. “It’s stressful and I’m going this is going to be my last your, then it comes together and you see all of the people so happy and having a good time, then I go ‘oh yeah that’s why we do this.”

Yon said this year’s race was an apparent reprieve for participants, especially after the contentious election.

“You won’t find you political party on our application,” he said jokingly. “We don’t care.”

Putting on an event as big as the Turkey Trot requires a huge volunteer pool. It included Bill McGuire, one of the founders, who on race day was busy handing out awards.

There isn’t a better way to spend the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, he said.

“It’s a lot more than a race,” McGuire said. “It’s a kickoff to the holiday season. It’s a day we hope people are coming out and giving thanks for being healthy enough to run, to appreciate the rest of their community and gather their families together.”

As is the case every year, several diehard runners participated in the race. 

Stan Linton won the men’s 15K in a time of 48 minutes, 28 seconds. Sheryl Rosen took 56:45 to win the women’s division

In the 10K, Micah Kemp won in a time of 33:13, while Renee Cox won the women’s division in 38:59. Ricardo Estremera won the 5K men’s title in 14:47, and the women’s winner was Carolyn Willis, who took 19:43 to complete the race.

John Pye didn’t mind that he was among the also-ran finishers. He and six of his family members were there to support his mother, Linda Malone. She is on a health kick and used to race as part of her conditioning.

“The biggest thing is that our mom has been working out, which is really great so we all came out to support her,” said Malone’s oldest son, Bernard. “We hope we can start a family tradition from here. It’s all about doing better with our health.”

The guilt of eating a big Thanksgiving meal was in part what got Bob Hickner out for the race. 

“You can burn a few extra calories before that turkey dinner so that’s quite valuable,” said Hickner, a professor at FSU who also competes in triathlons. “Usually people just gather for food and don’t gather for activity so it’s great that so many people that don’t usually run came out.”