Runners earn their Thanksgiving dinner at annual Turkey Trot

For many who take part in the Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K, fitness is just as much a part of Thanksgiving as food and family.

In Towson, thousands of runners and walkers got a healthy start on their holiday Thursday in the 23rd annual race. It was one of seven Turkey Trot races held on Thanksgiving Day sponsored by the Y in Central Maryland.

“It’s a great way to start the morning,” said Katie John of Towson, who wore an antennae headband decorated with turkeys. “I love doing this race because there are families everywhere. … I’ve done races before, but the community aspect of this one is just unlike any other.”

She said she loves seeing the crowds of families, some with strollers and dogs in the race. She ran with her father, Andy, and with Lulu, a golden retriever.

Despite the chill, racers had sunny skies to enjoy as they made their way through the streets of Towson on the 3.1-mile course, which began and ended at the Orokawa Y. Some wore turkey hats or autumn-colored tutus.

More than 3,200 racers participated in the Towson event, said Ryan Gadow, district vice president for the Y in Central Maryland. The Y’s goal for all seven Turkey Trot locations was 14,000 participants, he said.

Proceeds from the race support scholarships that help families pay for memberships, summer camps and programs.

“This is our way to keep strengthening the community, to give people the opportunity to get access to services and programs at the Y, that under normal circumstances [they] would not be able to afford themselves,” Gadow said.

Many families make the race part of the Turkey Day tradition, Gadow said.

“For a lot of people ... they just literally come out of their houses and pour out to the center; they do it every year,” Gadow said.

Lisa Sussman, 30, won the women’s race with a time of 21:24. Jim Heilman, 22, won the men’s race with a time of 16:32.

Chrys Bell of Windsor Mill said she was trying to get back into running after injuring herself early this year. In March, she dislocated her ankle and broke her fibula.

She said she was looking forward to turkey and stuffing after finishing the race with her 11-year-old daughter, Tiffany.

“I kind of made her my running buddy,” said Bell, who did a mix of walking and running on Thursday.

Her goal is to do a 5K race every month. Next up is the Ugly Sweater Run in Baltimore in December.

“It gets addictive,” she said. “You get hooked on it.”

She said she liked the challenge of the hills on the Towson course.

“I like that it’s so many people out here and that everybody cheers each other on,” Bell said. “It doesn’t hurt that it’s for a good cause too. You feel like you’re making a difference while you’re also getting healthy and earning that dinner.”

Tony Barr of Perry Hall and his granddaughter Jayla, 11, ran the Turkey Trot together for the first time Thursday.

“We started running together to get ready for this,” Barr said. “I think it’s the beginning of a tradition.”

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