Anticipating their coming Thanksgiving feast, Steven Levin and his family got an early jump on burning the excess calories.
Along with 1,500 other runners and walkers, the Levins participated yesterday in the 24th Annual Green Valley Turkey Trot near Owings Mills, an informal charity event that attracts strolling families as well as hard-core runners.
"We can offset the damage we're going to do later," said Levin, a running enthusiast from Reisterstown who attended with his wife, Michelle, and 12-year-old son, Eric.
The Turkey Trot started at 9 a.m. at the Baltimore County home of Martin Hyatt, who co-founded the event in 1983 after learning he had Crohn's disease.
The Green Valley Turkey Trot is noncompetitive, unlike many other Thanksgiving Day runs, including the Towson Family YMCA Turkey Trot. Also held yesterday morning, the Towson race collected canned food and donations to benefit local families and victims of hurricane disasters.
Charity running and walking events -- often called turkey trots or turkey chases -- were held around the country yesterday. In Maryland, there were pre-meal excursions in St. Mary's City, Frederick, Edgewater, Hagerstown and Bethesda.
The Green Valley Turkey Trot started with eight of Hyatt's running buddies, who got together and raised $325 for charity. "I told them they each had to bring one more person next year," Hyatt said. "Now it attracts all kinds of people."
Hyatt said the event raised $50,000 last year and he expected it would bring in more this year. The money goes to research programs at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The event has grown each year and attracts a mix of people, including runners, local families and people with digestive ailments and their relatives. Participants choose from two routes, a 5K run or a 3K walk, both of which wind past farms and through neighborhoods before ending in front of Hyatt's house.
Penny and Mike Smolek of Sykesville said they heard about the event on the radio and were surprised so many people turn out on Thanksgiving morning. The couple decided to attend because Penny Smolek has Crohn's disease, which often runs in Jewish families and causes inflammation of the digestive tract.
Along with ulcerative colitis, it is often referred to as inflammatory bowel disorder. "You lose a lot of weight," she said. "Your body can't absorb the vitamins and nutrients you need."
Leslie Seidman, of Pikesville, said she came to support her sister and niece who suffer from colitis. She has attended the event for six years and this year planned to push her two daughters, Eve, 4, and Rose, 1, along the course. "It seems more crowded this year," she said, "but maybe it just seems that way with a stroller."
The Baltimore Orioles' mascot was also in attendance this year, as was former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has attended the event several times.
Ehrlich said the weather -- sunny and in the 60s -- was the best he had seen for the trot. "It's usually dark and cloudy and cold, but this year's amazing," he said.
In the lead-up to the start, people crowded the neighborhood, spilling into the yards surrounding Hyatt's house. Runners dressed in shorts and T-shirts stretched in the street and children jumped around in a moon bounce set up in Hyatt's front yard, like popcorn careening around in a popper.
Meanwhile, a neighbor stood sentry over bushes planted in her front yard, trying to keep the assembly from crushing them. "No, no, no, no," she scolded a boy on a bicycle who was trying to drag the bike through shrubbery.
Runners were the first to start along the course, loping along streets lined with fiery autumn foliage. The walkers came next, their leisurely pace giving them time to take in the leaves fluttering to the ground.
As he waited to start the walking course, Doug Fisher of Pikesville said his goal was for his son, Max, and nephew, Chad, both 9, to finish the course. But Max summed up his Thanksgiving Day priorities somewhat differently. "I want to eat a lot of turkey," he said, jumping up and down and rubbing his belly.