A Look Back – The 2020 Tallahassee Turkey Trot Went Virtual

Turkey Trot 2020 – A Virtual Experience and More

David and Mary Jean Yon

COVID-19 became the unmasked disrupter of the 46th running of the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. For a brief moment, there was doubt as to whether the race would happen at all. Turkey Trot is about getting together with friends and family. Virtual racing is about keeping runners separate to minimize the risk of COVID spread.  These goals clash.

The concept of virtual racing sprang to life all over the world as race directors searched for ways to keep their events going.  In 2020, that meant runners were encouraged to run in small groups around the city or their homes while maintaining social distancing. The goal was to reduce the risk of spreading the dreaded COVID-19 virus and save at least a wisp of Turkey Trot race culture.

And so, while it wasn’t ideal in anyway, Turkey Trot 2020 went virtual.  Runners were asked to register, run on their own, and support the numerous Turkey Trot projects and beneficiaries.  Instead of 5,000 or 6,000 registered participants, there were 1,564 participants. And while we couldn’t all be together at one time and place on Thanksgiving morning, we still found a way to celebrate our community while preserving many of the traditions associated with this great race.

Participants were given two choices for how to get a 1-mile, 5K, 10K, or 15K run in and were encouraged to upload their times and photos to the Turkey Trot website. They could run on race day morning at 8:00 a.m. from home or wherever they preferred. If Thanksgiving morning did not work in terms of scheduling, participants could also run any of those four distances and report their times up until the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

There was no organized start on Esplanade Way but at 8:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning the Turkey Trot bell was rung in honor of Michael Boll and Jim Phillips, two members of GWTC and friends of the running community, who died unexpectedly in 2020.

On the plus side, Turkey Trot found a new friend in Mega Ace Media. Vaughn and Thais Wilson combined their creative talents and skills to create a 90-minute Turkey Trot production that aired on race day morning and included a welcome from Mayor John Dailey, as well as a rousing rendition of the National anthem sung by Star Swain. Dei’Ja Wilson and John Summers served as the broadcast team and monitored the progress of Felix the Turkey (aka Paul Peavy) as he tackled the 5K course in SouthWood. Participants such as Mickey Moore and his son Shane, John Dew and his grandkids, Katie Sherron and her daughter Finley, the Black Girls Run group, and more checked in while running on Thanksgiving morning. The production can be found on YouTube at: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8QO_sYrz72c&pp=sAQA

Another plus was how well received the event was as people still expressed a desire to participate. From Ben Hall and his crew in the great city of Blountstown, to the Johnson, Bakofsky and Mathias families vacationing on St. Simons Island, Georgia, to New York, Germany, and even Australia; that sense of community was present. Pictures, Zoom, texts, email, Facebook, and YouTube all had roles to play.

Last year’s event also turned out to be a good year for the Turkey Trot Heroes program as an impressive $18,443 was donated to help the race beneficiaries (Refuge House, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Bend, and The Kearney Center) in a year when everybody was struggling, especially non-profit organizations.

So, when all was said and done, the 2020 Turkey Trot did not fill up Esplanade Way with participants, but it still managed to create goodwill for good causes and give us all something to look forward to in 2021.

Now that 2021 is here lets get together again!