In 1896, the first Turkey Trot was held at a YMCA in Buffalo, New York. It was a 5-mile course, and every year since, that Turkey Trot has been held. In fact, it’s the oldest continuous footrace in North America. Since 1896, not only has the Turkey Trot in Buffalo grown in participants — capping at 14,000 — but also the popularity of such races blossomed across the East Coast and across the nation.

The craze hit South Carolina — Charleston’s was established in 1914. Most cities have picked up the tradition of getting an exercise in before the holiday feast.
More than 11 years ago, Covenant Partner Stephen Thompson took the initiative when a couple events aligned. First, a friend of his with festivals and promotions in Myrtle Beach talked with him about Thanksgiving being the biggest 5K race day in the country and Florence didn’t have one. Second, Stephen and his wife, Alison, were in a small group at church with Jeremy and Courtney Emert, who were readying to become missionaries. Stephen took the call to be the Florence race organizer and made the Emerts the beneficaries so Jeremy would receive funds to help work with women who were abused and teaching them how to sew.

The Emerts, with Poetice International, have worked for Poetice in Zambia since 2014. Jeremy is a pastor and is in Houses Oversight and Development. Courtney is Worship Team Lead.

“What a blessing it has been to our family and ministry to have the support of the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trotters for the last 10 years,” Courtney said. “The hard work and commitment of the event’s sponsors and participants encourage us and spur us on to continue the work that God’s called us to in Zambia, Africa! Blessings on this year’s event!”

“We have a good community of people doing it every year,” said Stephen, who co-owns Local Motive in Florence. “There’s out of town folks in to see family and runners of all skill sets – from Clemson University cross country team members to parents with strollers to walkers – that have participated.”
Stephen said the race has grown over the years. The first year they partnered with House of Hope and had a 5K and 10K, and they had a hundred people race. Since then it’s been a 5K and growing in numbers — last year they had a few hundred participants.

There’s prizes for everyone, and there’s prizes for first, second and third place among the age groups. And there’s gift baskets to the two overall winners.
Stephen said he would love to see the race get past the 450 mark of runners. Participants register online. Early bird rates are $45. After Nov. 20, the price increases. “For 11 straight years it’s the volunteers that are the mechanism that makes it happen,” Stephen said.

Among the dedicated volunteers, the timing team, the company that helps put the race together, and the Briggs Elementary School and neighborhood folks, the race is a success. It’s gaining a lot of momentum, Stephen said. “It gives me confidence to put it on this year and years to follow.”

To register for the Florence Turkey Trot, visit here.