Thanksgiving is a popular day for runners

Thanksgiving is a popular day for runners

November 22nd, 2017 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Stacey and Mark Malecky run along Riverfront Parkway Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's Thanksgiving race.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

If you go

Sportsbarn Turkey Trot
› When: Registration begins at 7 a.m. today; race day is Thanksgiving Day

› Where: Sportsbarn East, 6148 Lee Highway

› More info: sportsbarn.net/turkey-trot-info/

18th Annual Grateful Gobbler Walk/Run
› When: 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day

› Where: Coolidge Park

› More info: gratefulgobblerwalk.org

Chattanooga Hungry Turkey Half Marathon and 5K
› When: 8:45 a.m. Saturday

› Where: Coolidge Park

› More info: tennesseeruns.com/chattanoogahungryturkeyrun

Before families come together at dinner tables to give thanks and ingest large Thanksgiving meals, more than 1 million people across the country will wake up early and run.

Thanksgiving is now the most popular running day of the year, according to Running USA, and many Chattanoogans will take part. Local races over the holiday period include the Sportsbarn Turkey Trot and Grateful Gobbler Walk Thanksgiving morning and the Chattanooga Hungry Turkey Half Marathon and 5K on Nov. 25.

"It's something a family can do together," Road Runners Club of America Executive Director Jean Knaack said. "And I also think people think 'I'm going to go run, and then I'm just going to sit and eat until I'm blind.'"

Thanksgiving Day runs aren't new. They've been around for more than 100 years. However, they've experienced exponential growth in the past decade.

Stacey and Mark Malecky run along Riverfront Parkway Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's Thanksgiving race.

Stacey and Mark Malecky run along Riverfront Parkway...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Mark and Stacey Malecky run along Riverfront Parkway Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's Thanksgiving race.

Mark and Stacey Malecky run along Riverfront Parkway...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

If recent growth continues, it will be the first time since data collection began in 2011 that more than 1 million people will take part in organized runs on Thanksgiving Day, according to Running USA.

But why?

Some say it's because turkey trots encompass the spirit of the holiday.

"I think it is the fact that there are a lot of families who come together at that time," Sportsbarn Turkey Trot director Bob Peck said. "It gives them the opportunity to come together and do something that morning."

For others, it's a tradition or a way to exercise before feasting on large meals.

"It's a fun way to start Thanksgiving Day. You're going to spend the rest of the day in gluttony, essentially," Stacey Malecky, manager of the Chattanooga Track Club, said with a laugh. "So it's good to go out and run for a good cause and get exercise."

The Maleckys met in college and have been running together ever since, although Mark Malecky is usually well ahead of his wife, she said.

They'll take part in Thursday's Sportsbarn Turkey Trot, an event that will see an estimated 1,200-1,300 participants, Peck said. The event features several options including a 3-mile walk, a 1-mile run and a run for children, but the most popular event is the 8-kilometer run.

About 25 percent of the participants will be from out of town, an unusually high number for such a short race. However, that suggests to Peck that it truly is a family event, with out-of-town guests running with their families.

"It's a great time for families to come together and enjoy each other," Peck said.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.