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Turkey Trot a Thanksgiving Day tradition for families, furry runners in Westminster

Colby Cotoia, 16, of Finksburg, takes off from the start of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K in Westminster Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018.
Colby Cotoia, 16, of Finksburg, takes off from the start of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K in Westminster Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

An old Thanksgiving joke asks, “What’s the best dance to do on Thanksgiving?” The answer is "the Turkey Trot.”

For some, that’s no joke.

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“I love the energy in the morning,” said Syeda Khan of Westminster. “Even though it’s early morning and so cold, a lot of families are there together. Everyone’s smiling and waving when we run. My kids pass me, because I walk and they are runners.”

Khan is speaking of the Hill Family Center Y’s Turkey Trot Charity 5K, held annually on Thanksgiving Day. She learned about the Turkey Trot years ago from a friend whose family came to town to join their mom in the run. Back then, Khan said she volunteered because her two children were very young

“Then, when they were in third and fourth grade we signed up. This is our fifth year to run,” Khan said. “It is a family tradition. Already, for the last two months my kids have been after me asking, ‘Did you sign us up?’ They love it, too."

Mike Walters is center director at Westminster’s Hill Center Y. He said he loves seeing all the families, the dogs, the costumes they wear, and especially the cause.

“It is a great community event whether you are young or old. You can run it, you can walk it, you can skip it,” Walters said. “It is the give-back value. The dollars raised go back into the community, through open door scholarships and programs at the Y for children who cannot afford it. We don’t want kids to have a barrier when they want to participate in Y programming.”

Walters said this is the ninth year for them to hold it, joining seven centers in central Maryland.

“Upward of 15,000 total will participate at those seven events,” he said, noting that Westminster numbers top 2,000 annually.

Runners, including first-place finisher Brad Arbaugh, center, take off at the start of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K in Westminster Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018.
Runners, including first-place finisher Brad Arbaugh, center, take off at the start of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K in Westminster Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Pastor David Schafer of St Benjamin’s Lutheran Church said he’s done it for many years, but missed last year.

“It’s a great day to have a run because it is Thanksgiving. I always try to dedicate my run to someone I care about or to someone who has passed,” Schafer said. “Thanksgiving Day is a good time to do that for someone who has been important in your life.”

Schafer said he likes to see the costumes that people and even their dogs wear on the course — which begins at Carroll Community College and ends at the Y — though he has never personally worn one for the event.

“I can’t wear a costume and run. I’m lucky I can walk and talk at the same time,” he said with a laugh.

Lots of dogs and people do dress up for the 3.1-mile walk or run, and to participate in the best costume contest.

“We have swag like gift cards, hats, shirts, blankets and things like that with the turkey trot logo that we’ll have as prizes for the costume contest,” Walters said.

Brittany Sears is running for her second year. She works the front desk at the Y.

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“There was somebody in a turkey outfit, last year. People come out in turkey hats and funny head gear and colorful socks and stuff. A lot of people dress up silly just it for fun," she said. “Last year, after I finished, I said I am going to make this a tradition and do it every year and this year, my [adult] brother is going to join me.

Naddie Waite of Hanover, Pa. and John Saurusaitis of Lineboro cross the finish line of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K in Westminster Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018.
Naddie Waite of Hanover, Pa. and John Saurusaitis of Lineboro cross the finish line of the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K in Westminster Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

“I like that you can hang out with everybody in the community, and your Y family on Thanksgiving Day while doing a good thing for the community. Last year, it was the best Thanksgiving morning ever. I was so energized for the rest of the day.”

After the 5K, Walters said they have a half-mile kids run that they have renamed t his year, calling it the Turkey Chase. Walters laughed as he shared how two of his volunteers will be dressed up like turkeys. The kids will each be given a chef hat to chase the turkey.

“Each kid will get a medal around their neck as they come in,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll wear the hats again when their parents are making Thanksgiving dinner.”

Runners of all ages get a T-shirt and the link to a virtual gift bag — an email with coupons and opportunities from sponsors. The run is timed, with prizes for first, second and third in eight age groups.

“We also have a dog registration and we’ll give out [a limited number of] bandannas for the dogs on a first come, first serve basis,” Walters said. “Last year we had 72 dogs. We are definitely a pet-friendly event!”

Water is provided on the course with an assortment of fruit, granola bars and snacks after the race.

Silver Run resident Jessica Dustin said she’s run several times with her family, including her husband and three kids and her sister’s family.

“We made it a tradition on Thanksgiving before eating,” Dustin said. “It was lot of fun.”

Walters said they are working to make the event green, with biodegradable cups, a compost can and they’re separating trash.

“We’re working to be friendly to the planet and are hoping to lead others in this area,” he said.

The race starts at 8:30 a.m. at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road in Westminster. Parking is at the ollege or the park ‘n ride lot at the intersection of Md. 32 and Md. 97. There is no parking at the Y. Shuttles run from 7:20 to 8:10 a.m. and from 9 to 10 a.m.

Participants can register at https://ymdturkeytrot.org or by calling 443-322-9622. When nonmembers register, they’ll receive a complimentary Y membership good through Dec. 31, 2019. Packet pickup dates are at the Hill Center Y on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2–9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 27, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and race day at 7 a.m.

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