Turkey Trot Gives Back

Holiday 8K provides tradition and donations for local community


Photo by R. Sullivan

Runners gather in front of the downtown landmark Love Where Your Live Mural to begin the 8k race.

Sarah McMeekin, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Running through downtown early Thanksgiving morning has been a seasonal tradition for the Spartanburg community for 17 years. The 8-kilometer race begins at the “Love Where You Live” mural and follows a scenic route through Duncan Park and the Rail Trail. According to GoUpstate.com, about 1,900 runners took part in the event in 2019. On a day of giving, the race makes a significant contribution to help the community, through an entry fee of $10 that benefits local healthy eating and active living initiatives as well as a can donation for local food shelters.  

Rookhie Sullivan (11) runs on the cross country and track teams and participates in the Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving. 

“I believe the Turkey Trot is a good fundraiser that benefits the community’s health and less fortunate when it comes to donations,” Sullivan said. “Almost everyone brings something and because there are lots of people, so much gets donated.” 

The non-profit organization Partners for Active Living, better known as PAL, has been responsible for the Turkey Trot over the last 17 years. According to palspartanburg.org, the goal of the local non-profit is to foster a physical activity and healthy eating environment within Spartanburg County that will improve the health and wellness of the community. PAL is well-known for its various contributions, including hosting the Criterium and Turkey Day 8K, building trails and supporting food share programs.  

Although the Turkey Trot is special to the local community, Thanksgiving races are popular nationwide. According to runnersworld.com, the first Turkey Trot was held by the YMCA in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1896. This concept of the Thanksgiving race spread quickly throughout the early 1900s, growing with the increasing popularity of running. According to Running USA, a record of 961,882 people finished a Turkey Trot in 2016, making it the most popular holiday race.  

Geoffrey Falkner, communications director for the historic Buffalo Turkey Trot, discussed why he thinks the Turkey Trot has become such a popular tradition in an interview with runnersworld.com. 

 “It’s basically one big family and friend reunion,” Falkner said. “And it’s also a way for people to do something healthy for themselves and give back to the community.” 

Thanksgiving is well known as the most food-centered holiday but is also the most common holiday to run a race. This is no coincidence, as, according to livestrong.com, exercise is proven to aid digestion by improving blood flow to the digestive tract. Additionally, the race entry fee of canned food items helps to share a traditional Thanksgiving meal with those in need, spreading tradition through exercise.  

The iconic Turkey Day logo is another way PAL raises money for local healthy eating and active living initiatives. Each year a new design is made, with this year’s colors being an orange turkey holding a green sign on a purple background. The first 75 men and women to cross the finish line are awarded a pair of the coveted Turkey Day socks, and t-shirts can be purchased upon entry.  

John Bollinger (12), a varsity cross country and track runner, participates in the Turkey Trot each year. 

“I think the number of people that come to walk or run provides a massive amount of cans and food for the community and the Soup Kitchen to help those in need on this joyous holiday,” Bollinger said. “The run helps bring people together for this cause so that more cans are provided for the Soup Kitchen and other charities the cans are donated to.”