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125th Annual Turkey Trot to Continue In-Person and Virtually


Every Thanksgiving morning, around 14,000 New Yorkers line up to participate in the YMCA Buffalo Niagara’s Turkey Trot. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the 125th consecutive race will be limited to 125 in-person runners.

“The YMCA Turkey Trot is one of Western New York’s oldest traditions and the longest consecutively run footrace in North America,” said Mary Ilarraza, the communications director for the YMCA Buffalo Niagara. “We felt it was important to keep the streak going, especially since 2020 marks the 125th running of the race. Although it will be a bit different this year, we are excited to be able to host an in-person race for the community.”

The milestone race will run with several modifications to adhere to all state and local safety and social distancing protocols, including:

  • Participants will be divided into waves of 15 runners. Each wave will have a specific start time.
  • Upon arrival, each participant will be required to show proof of ID. At that time, a health screening and temperature check will be conducted. Participants will receive their race bib once they have been cleared to participate.
  • Participants must present their race bib to race officials to gain access to the start line area.
  • Participants will be required to wear a mask from the point of arrival until their wave starts. Anyone failing to adhere to mask and social distancing guidelines will forfeit their entry.
  • Masks can only be removed once the wave starts and when/if proper social distancing is achieved. The mask must be replaced immediately whenever spacing among fellow participants requires and upon crossing the finish line.

The Y also has a process in place to choose the lucky 125 in-person runners — to symbolize the 125th anniversary. Prospective entrants must be 18 years or older, a resident of Western New York, able to complete 8k on foot in under 60 minutes and commit to fundraising a minimum of $1,000 by November 1, 2020 to support YMCA Buffalo Niagara.

“In addition, all entrants must complete and sign a COVID-19 health survey confirming no recent travel outside of New York state, no recent contact with anyone testing positive for COVID-19, etc.,” said Ilarraza. “The random selection process will take place on Monday, September 28. Those selected will receive a reserved entry via email to be completed within 48 hours.”

The Y will also be hosting a virtual race for those who are not selected for the live event. Participants can run, walk or jog an 8k on a route of their choosing between November 26 and 29.

If your facility is weighing whether or not to still have an event, Ilarraza recommends keeping an open mind. “The best advice we can give is to just be flexible in your planning and keep an open mind as you reimagine your event,” she said. “During times like these, things change almost daily, so it’s important to be able to adapt on the fly.”

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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