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Thanksgiving Day Run a Tribute to Turkey Trot Love Story

Gulf Winds Track Club

Thousands of people, from hard-core runners to casual walkers will descend on Tallahassee's Southwood Thanksgiving morning. They'll be taking part in a Turkey Day tradition that's nearly as old and as sacred as the football matchup between Florida State and the University of Florida.

The Tallahassee Turkey Trot began 41 years ago. But this is only the 25th year it's actually been held on Thanksgiving. Locations have included Tram Road and the North Florida Fairgrounds. For the past several years, the event has been in another location, said the Gulf Winds Track Club's Race Director David Yon.

“Southwood’s been a great place to host it,” he remarked. “We’ve always had good places for people to park and residents out there have been good and patient with us on Thanksgiving morning. It’s pretty and it definitely shows off their neighborhood, so it’s really been a nice place. It’s been a good home.”

Last year, some 6,000 people took part. And Yon thinks that popularity is tied to the fact the event welcomes everybody. Participants can take part in everything from a one-mile fun run to the more serious 15K course.

“You can run real hard if you want or walk the 5K,” he said. “You can do both; run hard for awhile and walk for awhile. But people just love getting out there and seeing each other on Thanksgiving Day and I think that’s what has helped the race grow more than anything else.”

For many, the Turkey Trot has truly become a multi-generational exercise.

“When registrations come in a lot of times there’s maybe 15 names on the registration form and it’s three generations; grandson, son, grandmother and that to me is what makes it a very special day and a very special event.”

Besides the combined chance to exercise and socialize, Yon said the event is also a chance for participants to indulge in the spirit of holiday giving.

“We have a big U-Haul out there and so one of the goals every year is to fill the U-Haul with non-perishable foods, clothing, toiletries, all those kinds of things you can imagine someone might need if they were out of their house for an extended period of time.”

This year's Tallahassee Turkey Trot will celebrate the life of long-time participant Don Trussell. Yon said last year was Don's final race, after he was diagnosed as having mesothelioma.

“And it didn’t totally sink in as to how bad the situation really was,” Yon remembered. “He did get out and he finished it and that was the 24th year he’d finished the race.”

Don died not long after. And this year his wife Marianne - who first met Don during the 1992 Turkey Trot - will kick off the event in unique fashion.

“We’ve got a 14-inch brass bell,” Yon said. “It’ll be at the starting line and Marianne will start ringing that bell and that’s when the race will start and hopefully keep ringing it until all the runners have gone by.”

All things considered, Yon is expecting the 2016 Tallahassee Turkey Trot to be one for the record books.

“You know, the Gators are here in town (for the annual football game against FSU) so a lot of people are staying home this weekend and we’d love to go out and have our biggest crowd ever.”

Check out: www.tallyturkeytrot.com or check out the Gulf Winds Track Club web site: www.gulfwinds.org .

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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