Run before you eat: Turkey Trot is 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day in Stillwater

A group of Stillwater area residents won’t need to feel guilty stuffing themselves with turkey on Thanksgiving, because they will burn off some of those calories during River Valley Athletic Club’s annual Turkey Trot in the morning.

Participants willing to roll out of bed in time for the 8 a.m. event Nov. 28 will have the option of running or walking a 5K or 10K loop, beginning at the athletic club.

Besides burning calories, participants will have another reason to feel good about themselves, running coach and co-organizer Jen Hansen said: They will be helping feed the less fortunate.

The run is free, and no registration is required, but participants are asked to donate what they can — whether money or grocery items — and the proceeds will go to Valley Outreach’s food shelf in Stillwater.

“Thanksgiving’s a day to give thanks for what we have and to be able to give back to somebody who might be struggling and might not have as many things to be thankful for,” Hansen said. “All the money that comes in goes directly to the organization, and there’s no overhead. The club doesn’t take anything from it.”

“Last year we raised over $1,000 and two bags of groceries,” said co-organizer Laura McNiff, who is the group fitness director for the club.

According to McNiff, about 150 people ran or walked during the Turkey Trot last year. She said it gets a little bigger each year.

The run is intended to be a family event, and strollers are welcome, but free childcare is also available 7:45-11 a.m. For those interested in testing their speed, finish times will be recorded, but to keep the race free, the club won’t use electronic chips to automatically register times.

The route begins at the athletic club on Curve Crest Boulevard, follows Orleans Street and Cottage Drive to Stillwater Boulevard (Highway 5). Then it follows Pine Street to Greeley, which takes runners back to Curve Crest. A map of the route is available at rivervalleyathleticclub.com.

McNiff and Hansen started the event four years ago as a way to help the community, McNiff said. This will be the fifth annual run.

“We just thought because it’s Thanksgiving … people should give before they get,” McNiff said.

“All our runners wanted to do something before they sat down at the table and ate,” Hansen said. “So instead of a group run, we thought we’d extend  it to the community.”

The first cause supported by the run touched Hansen personally.

“The first year my mom had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said, adding that the proceeds that year went for breast cancer research.

During and after the run, the athletic club’s facilities will be open to the public to use for free.

“If they want to take a shower, they don’t have to be members here,” McNiff said. “Everyone’s welcome.”

Even the classes offered that morning will be free and open to the public.

Anyone who wants to run or walk in the event can simply show up with a donation around 7:45 a.m. on Thanksgiving. The club is at 1826 Northwestern Ave., Stillwater.

For more information, contact Laura McNiff at laura.m@rivervalleyathleticclub.com or 651-439-7611 ext. 53.

Contact Jonathan Young at jonathan.young@ecm-inc.com

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