SEAN GOLIGHTLY Sun Journalist
The wind blew and the thermometer stretched to 28 degrees as runners gathered at Lowell Observatory around 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. Wrapped up in hats, gloves and puffy jackets, they came to participate in a Turkey Trot – a fun Thanksgiving Day race – hosted by the Flagstaff-based trail running organization known as Trail GangstAZ.
A free event, guests were only invited to bring canned goods for donation to the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul pantry. After dropping their cans into a collection bin, runners rushed into shards of the rising sun where they rubbed their hands and bounced their heels to warm up.
Asked why she was participating, runner Koren Brown shared a meme, a tweet that read, “My biggest fear in a relationship is getting married to a family who runs 5 miles on Thanksgiving Day.”
“Yes, it’s our family,” Brown said with a laugh. Running is a fun activity her kids can participate in, she said.
She started keeping up with the Flagstaff running community when her children were born, and now it’s a way of life.
“If you don’t do a turkey trot on Thanksgiving, you are not my people,” she joked.
Also among the runners was Race Ostler, who traveled from Utah to visit family while on vacation. To him, a turkey trot in the morning seemed a natural addition to an afternoon feast.
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“Everyone knows we’re going to have a lot of calories later on, so we’re preparing to counter that,” he said. “And it’s just a fun family activity.”
Like Brown, Ostler took children Rowan and Gray, ages 8 and 7.
“It makes me exercise so I can do more mountain biking,” he said.
When it was time to run, organizer Ruairi Moynihan gathered everyone in a circle and said that this trot would allow runners to choose their own adventure. There were three marked routes available: a 1, 3, and 5 mile route.
“Remember,” Moynihan told the crowd, “it’s for fun. It’s not a race.
Then they set off, surveying the network of urban trails that crisscross Mars Hill, looking for the blue and pink flags that marked their route. The packs quickly split into various groups of families, dogs, adults and children. According to Moynihan, who has hosted numerous events through Trail GangstAZ, Flagstaff’s running community includes people of all athletic levels. The range can be wide as Flagstaff is a revered high altitude training ground.
“And that’s cool, because an event can be any ability, but we also have Olympians showing up,” he said.
When the runners finished their run, they found themselves at the start where Moynihan had prepared snacks and drinks provided by Grand Canyon Spirits. As runners caught their breath, they also had the option of purchasing raffle tickets for prizes donated by local businesses like Historic Brewing Company, Run Flagstaff, and Mama Burger.
With the sun higher and the blood warmer, people rested well and enjoyed the morning as Moyniahn reflected on why he was grateful for running.
“First of all, it’s something I’ve been doing since college,” he said. “But as you get older, it’s just a great outlet to relieve stress and stay in shape. Plus, you meet cool people.
Trail GangstAZ hosts several running events throughout the year, including weekly meetups and the Flagstaff Doggie Dash in August. For more information, visit trailgangstaz.com.