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Turkey Trottin'

While it's tradition for many families to spend Thanksgiving morning preparing the day's feast or watching parades on TV, for thousands of others it has become a chance to hit the road. Thanksgiving Day running events have become a healthful habit for families across the country, and Medford is right in the middle of the trend.

You don't have to be fit enough to run the Lithia Loop Marathon, either. Many "Turkey Trots" are simply aimed at encouraging families to get some exercise — and maybe help people who are less fortunate — on the day we're most likely stuffing ourselves to the gills.

In Medford, the sixth annual Turkey Trot, sponsored by Southern Oregon Runners, features an 8-mile run and a 2-mile run/walk. The races begin at Rogue Rock Gym, 3001 Samike Dr., and head onto the Bear Creek Greenway, with the 8-miler starting at 8 a.m. and the 2-miler going off at 8:30 a.m. There's also a 100-yard Turkey Dash at 7:45 a.m.

Last year, 213 people finished the 8-mile run and 425 people covered the 2-mile route, showing steady growth from the event's first year, when about 250 people participated in both events combined, says race director Chuck Whiteley.

"It's really become a huge event across the country," says Whiteley, noting that Turkey Trots tend to draw a different demographic than other running events held throughout the year.

"The reason for the 2-mile distance is because the event draws a different type of crowd than our usual events," Whiteley says. "A lot of the people who come aren't really runners. It's more of a family-oriented event."

A lot of the participants aren't necessarily local, either.

"We get a lot of out-of-town people," says Whiteley. "It's turning into a tradition for a lot of people. When they come into town to visit family, they do the Turkey Trot."

Based on early registrations, this year's event looks like it will attract about as many people as it did last year, Whiteley says, noting that even a forecast of rain probably won't dampen the enthusiasm of most participants.

"We've had weather in the teens in the past, but it doesn't seem to stop people. They bring their canned food, help raise money for ACCESS and have fun at the same time," says Whiteley, noting that the event serves as a fundraiser for the area's best-known anti-hunger group.

If you are the one traveling to visit family this year, instead of laying out the spread for out-of-towners, it's likely you can find a Turkey Trot to help yourself work up a healthy appetite and feed people who are less fortunate.

In Eugene's Skinner Butte Park, for instance, a Turkey Trot will feature a 4-mile run and a 2-mile walk, with proceeds benefitting FOOD For Lane County.

In Portland, the Oregon Road Runners Club will hold a 4-mile Turkey Trot at the Portland Zoo.

In Bend, Turkey Trot organizers will be collecting food and selling pies at the 5K and 10K event to benefit the La Pine Community Kitchen Food Pantry. Whole pies, including apple, blueberry and strawberry-rhubarb, will sell for $12 each.

Similar events and benefits will be happening in all 50 states on Turkey Day.

Down south in Redding, Calif., for instance, more than 1,000 runners showed up last year for a 6-mile run and four times as many for a 2-mile run/walk along the Sacramento River Trail. That event, sponsored by a local hospital, is now in its 27th year.

To sign up for the Rogue Valley event online, go to the Southern Oregon Runners club website at www.sorunners.org and click on the race calendar. If you register by Tuesday, Nov. 20, the cost is $20. Race-day registration costs $25 and will be available from 7 to 7:45 a.m. Southern Oregon Runners members pay $15.

For information, call Whiteley at 541-210-1117.

Reach Mail Tribune Features Editor David Smigelski at 541-776-8784 or dsmigelski@mailtribune.com.

Turkey Trots are becoming a Thanksgiving tradition all over the country. Here, Karen McClain of Phoenix, front, heads out from the start among hundreds of other runners in the 2010 Turkey Trot organized by Southern Oregon Runners. - Photo by Andy Atkinson