Charlotte Turkey Trot 2023 draws more than 10,000 participants — a race record
Thanksgiving is typically a day for food, family and kicking back before a busy Black Friday and the ensuing holiday season, but for more than 10,000 people in Charlotte this year, it was also a day for jogging through the streets of SouthPark in the city's annual Turkey Trot.
Race organizers said this year's crowd was a sellout and the largest number of participants in the event's 35-year history.
"We have people from 43 different states who are participating this year," race director Neil Howard said.
Participants could sign up for either an 8k, a 5k, a one-mile fun run or a "tot trot." Each race began on Barclay Downs Drive and finished behind SouthPark Mall near Symphony Park.
Many also planned to compete in a race-day costume contest, Howard said, with many people opting for Thanksgiving-themed looks.
"Pilgrims, turkeys, knives and forks, but then we'll also get superheroes and everything else, so it kind of runs the gamut," he said.
Charitable giving, toy donations
Each year, the event donates a portion of its revenue to charitable organizations. Howard said he expected the race this year to donate close to $50,000 to local organizations, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Explorers Holiday Toy Drive.
CMPD Officer Ryan Botzenmayer said he and other officers would also collect toy donations at the race to give to local families in need on Dec. 21 as part of CMPD's annual toy drive.
"We see the worst at times. We're going to 911 calls for service, and this is where officers can see a need, they can refer a family, and then they can go deliver the gifts and bring the holiday spirit to that family," Botzenmayer said.
'You gotta work for the bird'
Among those participating in this year's race was Amy Greer of Charlotte. She said she had last run the race's 5k in 2019, and was excited to rejoin the event after taking a break during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My race day plan is to get Dunkin Donuts coffee first thing in the morning. That seems to help me with my energy, and then just get out here and stretch a little bit and run as fast as I can," Greer said while picking up her race packet on Wednesday.
Another runner, 17-year-old Evan Gilliland, planned to run with his family, who were visiting from Memphis, Tennessee. Gilliland said he planned to skip breakfast, based on a past experience.
"I ate before a race. My stomach did not like it at the end of the race and well, you can tell what happened after that," he said.
Amy Udoff said she planned to be among ten members of her family running this year in what had become a Thanksgiving tradition.
"This is probably our 10th year doing it. We started off with just the adults, and then we all started having children and so we went from pushing strollers to the kids running with us. So it's an annual tradition that we do every single year on Thanksgiving morning. You gotta work for the bird, you know?" she said with a laugh.
Full results for the 2023 races are posted online.