Before spending family time at the table on Thanksgiving Day, some families share time together on the run.
For such families, the Y in Central Maryland will hold its 2016 Turkey Trot Charity 5K in seven locations on turkey day, including Westminster.
Proceeds benefit children who live in poverty, enabling them to attend Y preschool, camp, and before- and after-school enrichment programs. It is a way to put the "thanks" and the "giving" into Thanksgiving Day.
"This is our major fundraiser for the Y itself," said Mike Walters, executive director of the Hill Family Center Y in Westminster. "It is a great community event and you don't have to be an outstanding runner to partake. This is our seventh year to do it, and we see folks of all different ages and lifestyles, including those just getting into running. We see different generations and even family coming in from out of town. We also see a lot of people running with their dogs."
Participants of all ages can get their premeal workout in the Turkey Trot's 5K run or walk, or kids may opt to take part in the half mile Westminster Kids Fun Run. Other Maryland locations holding the Turkey Trot Charity Run include Arnold, Baltimore, Bel Air, Ellicott City, Perry Hall and Towson
The Trot in Westminster takes place on Thursday, Nov. 24 — Thanksgiving Day — with an 8:30 a.m. race start. If preregistered, the cost for adults age 18 and older is $35 and $17.50 for youth ages 7 to 17. Kids ages 6 and younger are free if pushed in a stroller in the main race. The half-mile Westminster Kids Fun Run for children aged 3 to 9 costs $15.
Morgan Muse, of Westminster, has participated in the Turkey Trot every other year since its inception.
"We go to visit family out of town every other year, but this is an on year," Muse said. "And I am very much looking forward to it."
Muse said her husband, John, and their sons, Matthew, 8, Patrick, 7, and Ryan, 4, all run, too, but that's not all.
"My and dad and my sister and her husband and my brother and his wife and their daughter all participate, too," she said. "They are from all over. They come and spend the night with us so they can do it. They signed up right away and they are looking forward to it, too."
Muse said newcomers to the race will probably run into someone they know. She said there's a huge crowd of participants annually with a true sense of community among all the runners.
"Everybody in Westminster comes together for a common good cause on Thanksgiving Day," Muse said. "Sometimes it is cold, and last year there was snow, but everybody still shows up and is happy to be there. It is a great way to burn calories before you eat and it makes you feel good about Thanksgiving to do good for others early in the morning."
Muse said her kids love it, too.
"Every time they see a sign for the Turkey Trot they say, 'When do we do it? How long do we have to wait?' and they are practicing," she said with a laugh.
Karen Farley, membership director at the Westminster Y, spoke about the kids run.
"Every child is a winner," she said. "Every child gets an award. This run is for kids who want to participate and for parents who want their kids to get some exercise even though they are not quite ready for the large race."
Both the adult and youth races are timed with awards given for first through third place.
"We have first-, second- and third-place medals for each age group, and the winner of each category also gets a water bottle," Walters said. "The male and female overall winners also get a membership to the Y with a fancier water bottle. The age groups start with ages 0-9, 10 to 19, the 20s, 30s, 40s and on up to 70-plus."
Dogs can also register to run for $15, and the cost includes a bandanna.
"Dogs can go for free without a bandanna, but we are encouraging them to register because the money goes to our kids," Farley said. "And the bandannas are adorable."
Patty Cullop, of New Windsor, who is also an employee at the Y, said she and her family have trotted in the Turkey Trot for three or four years now.
"It's nice to get up early Thanksgiving morning and get your exercise before you eat your big meal," Cullop said. "There are thousands of people. Some dress up and wear costumes. Last year we had a turkey and a butcher running behind him with knife. There are a lot of women wearing tutus, and people dress up their dogs, too."
According to Cullop, the number of people turning out to run or walk has grown annually.
"It is a really big family event," Cullop said. "Some walk. You don't have to run. Some are pushing strollers. There are husbands and wives and kids. My sons have run it. They were way far ahead of me."
Cullop said the 5K route starts at Carroll Community College, loops around the grounds of the college and up a small street and back onto college grounds before ending at the Y.
"It's all on pavement, not gravel or grass," she said. "The police come out to close the road and direct traffic. Most people park at the college and walk over. If you haven't pre-registered or picked up your packet you do that at the Y inside the lobby."
Online registration for the Turkey Trot or the Westminster Kids Fun Run closes on Nov. 21. Participants may also register in person at the Y from Nov. 22-24.
The cost increases at midnight on Nov. 19 to $40 for adults and $20 for kids ages 7 to 17. The dog rate stays the same.
Farley said people can pick up their packets early, either Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 3 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. or on the day of the race from 7-8:15 a.m.
Farley said fruit and other healthy snacks will be available to participants on the day of the race.
"This is a great family event and has become a family tradition," Walters said. "It's about knowing all the proceeds that are raised go back into the community to help families participate in programs at the Y."