One of Austin’s favorite Thanksgiving traditions, the ThunderCloud Turkey Trot, came back for its 22nd year on Thursday. The race, one of Austin’s largest, had a 10 percent increase in runners this year for a total of 22,000 people. Last year, over $250,000 was raised for Caritas of Austin and it will come as no surprise that this Turkey Trot will likely surpass those numbers.
The event has grown tremendously since its inception 22 years ago. Mark Dollinger, manager at ThunderCloud, has been with the race for most of those years and has seen the expansion himself. He recalled that his first year there were only 2,000 participants, and seeing its success has been a great experience. The race takes place on the same day every year and so has become a tradition for many Austinites.While ThunderCloud Subs also gives a number of charitable donations throughout the year, this is the only event they put on and so focus all their attention on it. To keep the operating costs down and therefore give more to Caritas, nearly all of those who contribute to the event are volunteers, many from ThunderCloud itself.
It is also a truly family friendly race. The Kids K is a great place for younger participants to get involved, but it does not stop there. Mark believes that much of the growth is a result of people spreading the word to their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents to bring the whole family together Thanksgiving morning.
The Gursog family is a perfect example. This is their seventh year running the race and 13 of them were there last week. Many of the family have brought their pets and children for years. Another mother had her 6 month old along and commented that, while this was certainly his first Turkey Trot, it will not be his last.
This year’s second place female finisher, Jennifer Bergman, was also convinced to run by family. She is a University of Arizona Cross Country and Track runner. While she does not typically run on her breaks, she was convinced by her father and sister, who live in Austin, to run this Thanksgiving.
The race finished at noon, in time for families to return home for Thanksgiving dinner preparations after spending the morning helping others. Caritas of Austin is a local charity which supports those in need. Mike Haggerty, the co-owner of ThunderCloud, selected this charity to be the beneficiary for the Turkey Trot because they give more than just food and shelter to homeless, refugees and the working poor. Caritas goes beyond the immediate needs to truly help people get back on their feet and become self sufficient. This includes meals, classes on how to manage money and help finding jobs. Participants, organizers and beneficiaries had a lot to be thankful for from the success of this year’s Turkey Trot.