The starting line from the 2012 Long Beach Turkey Trot. All Photos Courtesy of LBTT Facebook.
To the uninitiated, the sight of runners disguised as Pilgrims, Native Americans and even salt and pepper shakers may seem a tad unusual. For the last eleven Thanksgivings, these oddities could be seen making their way down the bike path in Belmont Shore long before any potatoes were mashed or turkeys were baked. The Long Beach Turkey Trot has grown immensely from its humble beginnings 12 years ago, and if Justin Rudd has anything to say about it, this year’s installment of the Long Beach Turkey Trot will continue the tradition of the community coming together to “take a pre-emptive strike against the holiday bulge.”
Rudd, who grew up in Alabama, is the founder of Community Action Team (CAT), the non-profit that both hosts and benefits from the Turkey Trot. Long an advocate for animal welfare, education and the environment, Rudd had also immersed himself in booking running events in the city. Long Beach lacked a Turkey Trot, something he’d taken part in back home, and with the closest one located in Dana Point he decided to take action and create a new Thanksgiving Day staple, with a little Long Beach flair.
The Long Beach Turkey Trot was born.
What started out as a single event with about 500 participants has grown to tradition that draws nearly 5,000 people every year, funding nearly 90% of his non-profit’s needs to put on its nearly 60 events, contests and projects each year, according to an estimate from Rudd.
The money raised from the entry fees (currently $35) goes toward the general fund for CAT which will help fund events like the Haute Dog Howl’oween Parade this Sunday, the Miss Long Beach Pageant in November and the National Bulldog Beauty Contest in March.
“Let’s put it this way: the Turkey Trot funds my non-profit for the entire year,” Rudd said. “That’s how important it is.”
This year’s Trot will have three start times to accommodate the volume of runners with the first run starting at 7AM and each following run occurring an hour and a half apart. Although seven in the morning may seem early to climb out of bed and run a 5K or 10K for charity, Rudd said the early slots are the ones that fill up the fastest. But for those that took advantage of the day off and stayed out late the night before, there’s always the 10AM run. And if you’re on the younger end of the age spectrum there’s the kids’ half-mile Wingding run.
“We intentionally have those various start times because we have people who want to sleep in on a holiday like that, and I know that people go out the night before, so that works fine and others want to get it out of the way early and get home and get the turkey in the oven and on to grandma’s house,” Rudd said.
The runs are un-timed, both because the costs incurred with keeping time and ranking each runner would eat into the main goal of the Trot—raising money for CAT—and because Rudd is more concerned with people being active, getting a good workout in before the holiday meal and coming together as a community. There is a race-clock at the finish line that are using the mostly flat terrain of the course, which stretches from the Granada Boat Launch to Shoreline Village, to log their best times.
The 2014 Long Beach Turkey Trot 5K and 10K course routes.
For others, just getting through the race, whether it be walking, jogging or by wheelchair, is an accomplishment that can be added to their life résumé. Rudd acknowledged the joke that people justify that extra piece of pie after Thanksgiving dinner by having finished the Turkey Trot earlier in the day, but the training that goes into being able to complete it has a much bigger affect on creating a healthy lifestyle.
“Typically these runners will spend a few weeks getting ready for it so they are getting their bodies in better shape,” Rudd said. “That’s always a plus. Hopefully this will become some sort of a lifestyle for them to exercise more regularly.”
In between races, there is the Chicken Chucking Contest, where kids test their stretch and throw sand-filled rubber chickens across the beach to entertain runners waiting for the next event to begin. Runners will be given a Turkey Trot T-shirt that some choose to wear during the race and others don as a badge of honor at the dinner table. Rudd said it’s kind of like bragging “but they deserve it.” And for 600 lucky entrants, a holiday pumpkin or pecan pie awaits them as they cross the finish line. The pies are coveted, and Rudd has heard the playful anguish of runners lamenting another Turkey Trot completed without the glorious pie prize at the finish line.
Whether you’re first or last, dressed as a turkey or just prepping yourself for seconds, there’s a place for you at the Long Beach Turkey Trot. Anyone from amateur athletes to loincloth-wearing cross fit fanatics are welcome. Rudd explained that the goal is to have fun, to be creative and to be Long Beach.
“You can tell by the number of people that come out and participate that it’s a community building event,” Rudd said. “Anytime that we can get 5,000 people, mostly from around this area to come together—and they’re going to have some relatives come in from others states or other countries—that just solidifies who we are as a community.”
Participants can sign up for the Long Beach Turkey Trot here. The entry fee is $35 dollars but increases to $38 dollars November 1. Free parking will be available both Wednesday before the race, when race packets can be picked up and Thanksgiving morning to anyone who brings 2 nonperishable food items for donation.