Since the mid-1980s or so, the Turkey Trot in Russell has brought together friends and family for a brisk jog on Thanksgiving morning.
It was started by retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Hood and a few other friends who decided to go for a morning run on the holiday and provide some non-perishable foods for the hungry in the process. It was all in good fun.
My how it’s grown over the last three decades and much of that has been because of Ruthie Lynd’s leadership with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Russell High School, who has cared for the run like it’s her own baby for years. Ruthie and husband John are tireless FCA leaders whose hearts are bigger than a 50-pound turkey.
The run has been for fun and fellowship, but it also helped fill the food pantry for Helping Hands in Greenup County. The only entry fee was to bring some food and people turned out by the hundreds to participate in the unofficially timed race.
It was no frills and no guaranteed t-shirt, but it was the biggest 5K in northeastern Kentucky. At its peak, there were more than 800 runners. Last year about 500 braved some cold rain. It became a place for runners to have reunions and families came to watch, run or walk no matter the weather.
The Turkey Trot will go on again Thursday morning but as an official race. There’s a $25 race-day entry fee and Alan Osuch, the guru of 5Ks in this area, will be organizing. You’ll get a t-shirt and the race will be expertly run, timed and insured and there will, of course, be food and trophies like at all Osuch events.
Ruthie learned last year that these downtown runs needed insurance and that costs money, too. The best answer was for an organization that puts on 5Ks to take over running the race. It was the right call.
Some may be upset that it’s no longer a “free event” but any profit that comes from the race still goes to Helping Hands – and runners can still bring cans of food if they want.
Even though it was a “free event,” a lot of time and effort was put into the race by the Lynds and others on the holiday. They did it because they loved it and she will still be front and center, cheering every runner across the finish line like she always did.
It’s understandable that entire families won’t be able to participate because of the entry fee and the numbers may not ever reach the incredible totals of recent years. But hopefully the tradition will continue because it’s a good one and one that has benefited Helping Hands in Greenup County for years, not to mention bringing families to a fun event.
The area should be thankful to have a Turkey Trot for those runners who want to do something cool before the big meal is served later in the day. It showcases downtown Russell and can still be a reunion highlight on Thanksgiving.
A nice run, quality t-shirt and the good feeling of doing something for Helping Hands should trump that entry fee on a day where most of us have more to be thankful for than we deserve.