Hot Fun Runs Allow Austin Runners to Beat Fall and Winter Cold

Jake Matz, Staffer

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Austin has a prevalent running community, with large events like the Austin Marathon involving hundreds of thousands of spectators on race day. The same goes for the winter season. Both competitive racers and those who are just looking for a fun run this holiday have events to participate in.
The Austin Turkey Trot is held every year on Thanksgiving morning. It is the largest winter race in Austin and the second largest Turkey Trot in Texas. The run has existed for 28 years and has been an essential part of the community since its creation, according to David Cohen, the Director of Development at ThunderCloud Subs, the race’s sponsor.
“ThunderCloud Subs began this cherished holiday event back in 1991,” Cohen said. “In 2018, we had nearly 20,000 participants from 48 states, continuing our tradition of the largest 5-mile run and the second largest Turkey Trot in Texas.”
According to Cohen, since its first year, the race has cultivated a connection between generations within families. He said this is one of the reasons the run is so popular.
“The ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot is by far the most popular trot in the Central Texas area due to its family-fun nature and all the family traditions that have grown around the event,” Cohen said. “We have many families with three or more generations all participating together. It inspires people to do well for themselves by getting and keeping in shape and gives them an opportunity to help those in need, what Thanksgiving is all about.”
Emily Thompson, a LBJ Cross Country varsity runner, said runners participated in the race because of it’s community based environment.
“The community was great during this race,” Thompson said. “I knew a lot of people that were running and had a chance to run with some of my friends.”
Besides helping the runners start their winter and interact with the Austin community, Cohen said the Turkey Trot also puts all proceeds towards charity organizations in Austin. According to Cohen, as much as participants are running for themselves and for their family on Thanksgiving morning, they are also giving back to those in need in Austin as well.
“We gave $350,000 to our beneficiary, Caritas of Austin, last year and a total of nearly $3.8 million over the years,” Cohen said. “We are really good at managing the costs of this very large event and for that reason, we can give a large check to Caritas. And Caritas is very good at managing their charity to provide services for the homeless. Caritas of Austin has been ending homelessness for people for 55 years.”
The run not only bonds the Austin community in general, it has drawn many new runners from LASA as well. Junior Sebastian Reyes ran the Turkey Trot this year alongside many of his LBJ Cross Country teammates, such as Thompson.
“The run this year was really fun with a lot more runners participating in the race,” Reyes said. “The weather was a bit chilly, but overall, great running experience.”
Because the run takes place in downtown Austin, it is relatively hilly. However, Thompson said upbeat and silly atmosphere makes the miles go by fast.
“The run itself was really fun, it’s a great course that takes you through downtown,” Thompson said. “It’s a little hilly, which at times was tough but overall it’s a fun course to run.”
Over 20,000 runners took on the race this year, even more than last year. Reyes said not everyone was running with the aim to compete.
“This was different from other runs, as it felt less of a competition and more just about having fun,” Reyes said. “My advice for future runners is go your own pace.”
The Austin Trail of Lights Fun Run is also held during the holiday season at Zilker Park as part of the Trail of Lights event. The runners get early access to the Trail of Lights for a run that measures less than a 5K and with a similar laid back environment to the Turkey Trot. Marissa Goldman at Forefront Networks, one of the groups that organizes the Trail of Lights, said that the Trail of Lights Fun Run also attracts a wide age range, just like the Turkey Trot.
“The run brings lots of families,” Goldman said. “While we say ‘Jog, walk or stroll,’ it is very much an ‘early look’ at the Trail of Lights versus a big run.”
While not marketed as a large fun run, Goldman said the Trail of Lights Fun Run has experienced significant growth since its creation. According to Goldman, last year was its first sellout year.
“The Fun Run has gotten much bigger over the years,” Goldman said. “As an example, last year in 2018 was the first sellout year for the run with 9,000 runners.”
Whether revving up for the Austin Marathon and Capitol 10K, or looking for a way to connect with friends and family as well as the Austin community this holiday, runners can participate in runs that embrace the holiday spirit and draw many runners from LASA as well.