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12 HOW TO ORGANIZE A TURKEY TROT A step-by-step guide for race directors

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HOW TO ORGANIZE A TURKEY TROT A step-by-step guide for race directors

HOW TO ORGANIZE A TURKEY TROTThe Thanksgiving holiday is all about being with family, reflecting on our blessings, and of course, feasting upon favorite foods— lots and lots of food! Mountains of turkey and stuffing all piled with creamy gravy. Drooling yet?

While some focus on dishing up all those calories, many are concerned about burning them off. This is where you come in.

Between the sheer calorie consumption on Thanksgiving Day and the holiday spirit of giving, late November is the perfect time for charity and endurance races alike. Turkey Trots provide the ideal environment for all kinds of participants, from serious endurance athletes to families just looking for a fun outdoor activity.

While Turkey Trots can be a fulfilling way to gather communities and give back, organizing one is no small task. That’s why we created this guide that will walk (or run) you through every step of setting up your first Turkey Trot (or revamping your usual event).

In this guide, we’ll discuss: + Standing Out from the Flock + Getting Your Turkeys in a Row: Date

and Location + Getting Your Turkeys in a Row: Budget

and Permits + Promoting Your Turkey Trot + Sponsors and Partners + Catching the Turkeys: Registration + All About the Bird + Don’t Forget the Gravy: Race

Day Essentials + Preparing for Next Year

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STANdING OUT fROm THE flOcKAs the name would suggest, Turkey Trots are traditionally held on Thanksgiving Day. The holiday timing has its positives and negatives for someone building a race.

On one hand, you can capitalize on marketing and engagement tactics that target waistline-conscious participants. On the other hand, since most Turkey Trots take place on Thanksgiving Day, competition is a real concern.

For this reason, you’ll need tools and techniques to set your race apart from all the others. Here are some ideas:

Picking a Race dayMany Turkey Trots are breaking out of the norm of a Thanksgiving Day event and planning races in the week or two around the holiday itself. The spirit of the season is already culminating by mid-November, and people still watch their waistlines in the days and weeks surrounding the holiday.

look at motivationsWith carbs and calories galore, Turkey Trot participants often want to burn calories in the morning to indulge in a guilt-free afternoon. While this interest certainly drives registrations, others are looking for ways to engage with their community, have fun with family, or share in the spirit of giving with a relaxed, charity run. It doesn’t all have to be about the turkey!

Bring Variety to Your RaceGiven the increased competition on a Thanksgiving race day, you want to engage as many people as possible to fuel participation. Add variety to your race by planning longer half-marathon distances, fun runs, and kid-focused obstacle courses.

Seek Out PartnershipsDraw attention to your race and spread the holiday spirit by partnering with a charity. Providing a venue for charitable giving can drive registrations.

Embrace the ThemePeople love a good themed race. Turkey Trots are a perfect opportunity to go all out with a Thanksgiving theme, with everything from marketing to merchandise.

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GETTING YOUR TURKEYS IN A ROW: dATE ANd lOcATION While turkey hats and pilgrim costumes are fun and silly, planning a race is serious business. Once you have picked a theme, it’s time to determine your location and date.

A race has a lot of moving parts, so it’s important to start planning early. We recommend you begin in early summer to make sure you’re ready for race day.

Setting a dateAs we discussed, there’s not much wiggle room for Turkey Trots when it comes to dates. While other holiday-themed runs claim the whole season, the sweet spot for a Turkey Trot is two weeks prior to Thanksgiving Day through the weekend following.

A race that earns you a second piece of pie typically happens on Thanksgiving itself. Though calorie-burning appeal may be less timely a week or two before the holiday, races that focus on other priorities, such as charitable giving or community engagement, can be more flexible.

Check event directories, like, for local events happening at the same time so you can avoid as much competition as possible.

location, location, locationWhen choosing your location, you’ll need to consider a few factors:

What kind of Turkey Trot are you hosting? This question will determine the size of your location. If you’re hosting a 5K run/walk only, then you don’t need space to accommodate a 10K run. If you are planning on hosting other events, you will need to consider securing ample space to accommodate the race, participants and spectators.

How many registrants are you planning for? If you’re planning a smaller event, you won’t need the same space as a run that’s hosting thousands.

You might want to look at locations that have previously hosted events like yours so you will already have distances marked out for you. Also, make sure you have enough space for parking.

Will you host post-race activities? Sipping hot chocolate or hosting kid-centered activities are a big hit after a Turkey Trot. If weather in your region tends to be uncomfortably cold, you may need a venue with an indoor facility.

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GETTING YOUR TURKEYS IN A ROW: BUdGET ANd PERmITSNow that you’ve got date and location all settled, it’s time to dig into budget and permits. This is where all your planning really comes into play.

Try Before You BuyMost race materials are purchased up front, so you need to figure out the financials before you get too far in your planning. Even if you’re an experienced organizer, it’s essential to include all the expenses to ensure your race is financially feasible. Plan a meticulous budget that outlines every detail, such as paper cups for hot cocoa, so nothing surprises you.

With your budget in place, you can determine how much you’ll need to charge for registration, whether your goal is to break even or make a profit. Since Turkey Trots are often family affairs, you might want to provide discounts for children, students, seniors, or groups.

Now that you’ve set your budget, plan a realistic revenue and/or charity goal.

PermitsPermits are the main reason to start planning in early summer. While you may be able to determine your location and merchandise quickly, permits may not be so easy. Most race directors must obtain city approval for everything from road closures to noise permits and police support. Start with your city’s municipal government office and remember to stay organized throughout the process. We recommend making a checklist and having your permits ready whenever you may need them.

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PROmOTING YOUR RAcEYou can have everything set and ready to go, but without participants, you won’t have a race. Now that your theme and strategy have been decided, it’s time to get the word out.

create a Race WebsiteTo drive registrations, your race must be easily found online. You can heighten your search engine optimization (SEO) by identifying keywords for your event, such as Turkey Trot [Your city] or Thanksgiving Race, and incorporating them in your website content.

You’ll want to invest in online registration as well, preferably a platform optimized for mobile use. You’ll also need to ensure your registration platform is secure and can quickly and safely process personal information and payments. This gives potential participants a quick and easy way to register for your event, purchase merchandise, and have peace of mind that their data is safe.

leverage the Power of Social mediaSocial media offers lots of opportunities for eye-catching images, and news can be easily shared among friends and family and their networks. Create accounts on as many or as few social media platforms as you want, but make sure to give ample attention to the ones you choose.

A common mistake is failing to use a social media account to its full potential. Make sure you’re consistent with posting and engaging with your audience; we recommend daily posts or at least weekly posts during the month leading up to your event. Accounts don’t grow without engagement.

Integrating your social media into your registration flow can be a great way to boost excitement for your events. This allows your registrants to instantly share their registrations with their friends and family across their social, all from your registration platform.

Email is KeyCreate automated custom emails that point your audience to your website and registration. Send themed messages promoting your Turkey Trot to family members, friends, co-workers, charitable partners, civic contacts, and others.

Take Advantage of AcTIVE.comWhen spreading the word about your event, take advantage of free customer listings on With more than 8 million unique users every month, will give your event great visibility to athletes, families, and communities.

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SPONSORS ANd PARTNERS Getting sponsors or organizations connected to your event can help with visibility and registration, while offsetting expensive, upfront costs of planning.

Spirit of GivingStart by reaching out to non-profit organizations and charities in your area to explore partnerships. Because charities have established relationships with local businesses and supporters, you will gain new networks of contacts interested in your event. When you donate a percentage of registration fees, for example, you might receive free promos for your race and perhaps even donated materials.

Getting Sponsors on BoardUnlike charity partners, sponsors often run for-profit businesses and organizations that are interested in gaining exposure through your Turkey Trot. Like charity partners, sponsors can be a great way to offset costs and promote your event through their organization. In exchange for their financial support or event materials, like food or giveaways, you can offer companies

advertising on your event website, social pages, emails, merchandise and more.

Tips for finding Sponsors: + Create a sponsorship page on your website

that outlines sponsor opportunities. + Reach out to teams or groups registering for

your race to seek out corporate contacts that might be interested in sponsorship.

+ Explore contacts in your network, or reach out to local small businesses.

+ Attend networking events to make connections for current or possibly future events.

making Sponsorship EasyVirtual Event Bags® have become a popular alternative to goodie bags, saving time and money for race organizers while also getting sponsors involved. Participants receive emails with digital offers or coupons that are created by sponsors.

Sponsors get increased exposure and potential business, participants get great deals, and race organizers save upfront costs on materials, volunteer time, and hassle.

Another bonus: You can track everything in real-time. With Virtual Event Bags®, everyone wins!

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cATcHING THE TURKEYS: REGISTRATION Your registration process can make or break your race. Because Turkey Trots appeal to people of all ages and activity levels, having a quick and easy registration process is an important part of turning potential participants into registrants.

Online RegistrationOnline registration is an important tool for your race. Because many participants will find your event through digital channels, such as your website, email or social media, your audiences should be able to click directly to registration.

When you research race registration software providers, look for solutions that:

+ Provide a website that can be easily accessed from social media platforms and email communication.

+ Allow for customization so your registration will reflect your brand and your messaging at every step.

+ Ensure personal and financial information will be handled safely and securely during registration.

Race-day RegistrationWhile you might have all your turkeys in a row, your participants might not. With last-minute travel and family in town for the holiday, race day registrations can make up a good portion of your registrations. Allowing participants to register on race day may make the difference between a profitable race and breaking even.

For race day, make sure you have a system in place that is efficient for both your racers and your volunteers. A tool like ACTIVE On-Site provides a mobile- and tablet-friendly interface for your volunteers to quickly and easily check in and register participants on race day.

Group and Team RegistrationLeverage the Thanksgiving holiday as a time for family and togetherness by offering discounts or incentives for group registration. This will increase the appeal of your Turkey Trot and hopefully boost your registration numbers.

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All ABOUT THE BIRdAs with all holiday runs, Turkey Trots are a great opportunity to make the most of a fun theme.

Between charity-centered Turkey Trots and Thanksgiving Day events, there’s plenty of room for embracing the holiday.

Pull out all the stops on turkey puns and pilgrim costumes. Here are some things to consider:

food and BeveragesWater and sports drinks are staples at any endurance event, but you might consider some additional options to fit your theme. Plates of stuffing and gravy might be a bit much, but warm drinks like hot chocolate or coffee will keep participants nice and toasty if the weather is cold.

messagingBecause Turkey Trots are intended to be fun and light-hearted events that focus on giving back or watching the waistline, don’t be afraid to really ham (or turkey) it up with your messaging.

Generate excitement in your emails and social media posts with turkey images, jokes and puns, and other holiday references.

costumes and contestsA Turkey Trot is also a great time for participants to break out their turkey hats and dust off the pilgrim garb for “best dressed” contests and silly photo booths. You’ll get some great photo ops and hopefully expand your repertoire of “why did the turkey cross the road” jokes.

charityConsider adding coat or canned food drives or donation bins to help participants get into the spirit of the holiday. You might even offer incentives to registrants who bring donation items to your event.

ActivitiesFace-painting, bounce houses, games and crafts will appeal to families and little ones at a relatively low cost to you. Remember that you’re creating

a whole experience, and these activities will help you engage families whose children are still too young to participate in a race. Plus, who doesn’t love a good round of Pin the Tail on the Turkey?

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dON’T fORGET THE GRAVY: RAcE dAY ESSENTIAlS Whether your event is around Thanksgiving or on the holiday itself, creating a race is a major undertaking, and you need things to run (or trot) smoothly.

From setting up registration tables to handing out medals, you’ll want to have your finger in every pie.

A race day checklist will help you remember every detail:

Setting the TableBefore the starting gun goes off, you’ll need to make sure you’re totally organized so your event can begin on time, and your racers can have a great experience. Signage should be abundant, check-in ready, volunteers positioned, permits handy, and the course laid out for optimal safety. With every detail in place, you’re ready to welcome each participant with confidence.

making the most of the main course Get your volunteers and racers ready to go, double check your course and timing solutions,

and make sure water and goodies are prepped to hand out at the finish line.

Wrapping Up the leftoversMake sure to reinforce the holiday theme at the finish line. Give out Thanksgiving treats, and welcome your racers to any post-event entertainment or activities you have planned. Remember, you’re creating an experience, not just a race. Your participants have chosen to spend their holiday with you, so you want to make them glad they did!

You’ll also want to make plans for breaking down and cleaning up your event site. Ensure that some volunteers are prepared to stick around after all the runners have crossed the finish line.

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“It really comes down to that day: Seeing your labor go into execution, seeing 40,000 people lined up

and enjoying themselves and participating. It’s a day of joy, the way I look at it.”

Jason CryerEvent Director of YMCA Dallas Turkey Trot

PREPARING fOR NExT YEARWhile you may think your work ends the minute you put away the last cone, this is the perfect time to set your sights on next year.

With your event still fresh on their minds, participants are more likely to respond to your email, social media posts, photos and surveys that thank them for joining you, spark feedback, and cultivate loyalty and relationships.

Do a post-race debriefing with your staff, and keep detailed notes about things that need tweaking or modifying to improve your event moving forward.

You also can start analyzing your data. Zip codes, ages, genders, and other information about your participants can help you plan messaging for next year. Learning about your customers and finding out what drives them can be critical for creating a successful event.

Here are some questions to ask: + What groups (ages, genders, zip codes) are

most represented? + When did most people register for your event?

+ How did most of your audience engage with you? Email? Social media?

+ How many people registered as part of a group?

+ What percentage of participants took advantage of post-race activities?

In the months after your event, check in occasionally with your registrants by email or social media so you can keep nurturing those relationships for years to come.

“With the Turkey Trot specifically, I am a team of one… I have to have an amazing team onboard. …When it comes specifically to ACTIVE, it’s a piece that I wouldn’t be able to do without.”

Jason Cryer Event Director of YMCA Turkey Trot

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GET STARTEdWhether you’re planning your first event or your fiftieth, we’d love to help. You don’t need to have email, marketing, or technology expertise to be able to plan a successful Turkey Trot. Leverage our experts, and let us support your event from starting gun to finish line.

Get your turkeys in a row.

888.906.7622 | [email protected] |

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