Above / Turkey Trot participants will walk, run and stroll along Naperville-Plainfield Road again on Thanksgiving Day, starting this year at 8 a.m. on Thursday, November 24. (PN File Photo 2021)
Turkey Trotting Report with History Originally published in 2021
At 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning in 1998, the first Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot set off. A Lion member said his former club in the Northeast was very successful in hosting a 5K race on Thanksgiving. Knowing that Naperville has a lot of people running the streets for fitness and has produced many great running teams from high schools to North Central College, it seemed like it would be a good fit.
The Naperville Noon Lions Foundation got to work. This first race started on Jackson by Centennial Beach. Pre-registrations were thin for this first race. Sponsors with free entries begged some North Central riders to come help fill the field.
Thanksgiving morning was sunny and 65 degrees. Word had gotten around and with the good weather, runners continued to show up to register. With only insurance coverage for 200 runners, paper entry forms and payment in cash and checks, it was a madhouse.
This first Thanksgiving race had 326 finishers, with 147 women and 179 men. Success beyond our expectations.
The race then moved to the North Central Fieldhouse, which provided shelter before and after the race. With the success of the race, the number kept growing and the streets near the College were just too narrow. Luckily Naperville Central High School stood up and allowed us to use their gym and access the wider roads near the school.
We learned that yes, there are fast runners which are great to watch, but much of the terrain is made up of family and friends running or walking for exercise. Many come running in Thanksgiving-themed costumes. We also saw turkey hats, a couple like a knife and fork, pilgrim hats, and “Kiss the Cook” aprons. We even brought in Spiderman to organize our race.
That first year was our hottest time. One year, a snowstorm the night before left the streets clear, but the trees covered. It made for great photos.
Another year it was so cold that at the water stop around the second mile, water spills left patches of ice on the course. Fortunately, we had the ice melt for this problem.
One year, a 60-year-old runner gave up his number to a friend. She dragged her 20-year-old son and distance runner out of bed on Thanksgiving morning and pinned the 60-year-old’s number. This 60-year-old number won his age group and received many amazement accolades for his fast race from his mates.
Another year, two guys finished their warm-up a little late. Not knowing that the timing starter strip was on, they thought they could jump over the timing block. Instead, they just started their race timing chip over the minutes with race instructions. After the race, looking at the results, we noticed that these two good runners had very slow times. We thought they didn’t come to race, but maybe they were following a slower friend. We later found out what had happened, and they laughed at their failed attempt to jump over it.
We hope you will continue your Thanksgiving tradition of running or walking with us this year or tying up your shoes and starting a new family tradition.
The Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot is now accepting entries for our 25th year. We hope you can join us. Enter www.napervilleturkeytrot.com.
The race starts at 8:00 a.m. on Hillside, which is the street behind Naperville Central High School. The race is timed, so you don’t need to gather, because your race time starts when you cross the start line, not at the start gun.
Fast, medium and slow runners or walkers should come start your Thanksgiving with us. We have finishing ribbons for all children.
We know two people who have been racing since he left. We’d love to hear about any others who can match their streaks.
Thank you for your support of the Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot.
If you want to join Lions and help others. visit www.napervillenoonlions.org.