For most people, Thanksgiving conjures up visions of pumpkin pie, turkey and high school football. But for runners, Thanksgiving morning usually begins with a race.<!-- <p> "It's a great way to burn those excess calories before the big dinner," says George LeCours of Hollis, NH and a veteran of the annual Manchester Road Race held in Connecticut for the past 71 years. </p> <p> The Manchester race takes on the personality of a festival and according to LeCours "there are barbeques and parties all along the course." The race is renowned for world class competition and apparently for its world class race-day parties. </p>-->
Thanksgiving rivals the Fourth of July as the busiest race day of the year. In Massachusetts, there are dozens of races planned across the state. Ironically Plymouth, Massachusetts, the home of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, does not host a Thanksgiving Day race.
The variety of races held on Thanksgiving is unmatched by any other race day of the year. There are cross-country style races, traditional road races, beach runs, events that award pies to all finishers and events that offer a post-race party with music and libations. Whatever your race tastes, chances are you will find an event that suits you.
Most Thanksgiving Day races are relatively short in distance, allowing you plenty of time to travel to grandmother's house for dinner afterwards. Many offer kids events and walks so the entire family can participate.
It's also important to think about the purpose of Thanksgiving?to give thanks. "Most turkey trots raise money for really worthy causes like feeding hungry families around the holidays," says Rachel Hiner, owner and race director of Sun Strides, Inc., a Southern California company that plans Turkey Trots and other races in the region. "It's really easy to get caught up in all of the Thanksgiving hype and forget that we really do have a lot to be thankful for and there are many people who aren't as fortunate."
"Plus there's the most obvious reason: if you're going to eat a huge meal you should exercise to make up for the extra calories," Hiner continued. "Participating in a Turkey Trot is also a great way to start a new healthy holiday tradition with your friends or family. When you go for an extra slice of pie, instead of saying 'so what it's Thanksgiving' you can say 'I can eat whatever I want because I trotted for a good cause today.'"
And how many extra calories do you need to worry about on Thanksgiving? "A typical Thanksgiving meal can easily creep up to 3,000 calories or more," says Charles Stuart Platkin, the Diet Detective. "And many people go for two or three helpings--the pumpkin pie alone will cost you 270 calories." Of course you'll have to double that number if you make it a la mode.
Thanksgiving is full of homemade fattening foods that are so delicious it's tough to say no. By exercising during this time of year, it helps you "trade off" the extra calories. "Eating more on Thanksgiving can be offset, at least in part, by a moderate increase in daily exercise. Keep in mind that every 100 calories is equal to about 25 minutes of walking," says Platkin.
Sometimes it's tough to get motivated to increase exercise over the holidays. "By scheduling events, such as Turkey Trots during Thanksgiving Day, you have a better likelihood of staying even," Platkin says. "You are more likely to stay committed to exercising and burning off those extra calories because it's planned--especially when you plan it with others. When friends and family are going to be there, you'll be more cautious and likely to participate without even having to think about it as compensation."
So this Thanksgiving before you pack on the calories why not pack on a few miles? You'll feel healthier for doing so and less guilty when you go for that second helping.
To assist in your search for a Thanksgiving Day race, check-out the Coolrunning.com and Active.com race calendars. They provide a comprehensive listing to help you locate a race close to where you are spending your Thanksgiving.
Related Article: Healthy Recipes for Thanksgiving