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Thousands start Thanksgiving Day each year at the Dana Point Turkey Trot. Runners are shown here celebrating at the finish line during last year's event. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
Thousands start Thanksgiving Day each year at the Dana Point Turkey Trot. Runners are shown here celebrating at the finish line during last year’s event. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

37th annual Thanksgiving Day race provides opportunity to get active, support local nonprofits

By Andrea Swayne

Like turkey, pumpkin pie, the kids’ table and football, the Dana Point Turkey Trot has become more than incidental to Orange County Thanksgiving celebrations, it is a deep-rooted tradition.

This year will mark the event’s 37th year and is expected, as usual, to bring thousands to Dana Point to “run the race before stuffing your face.”

The expected registered turnout is 11,000—an estimated 16,000 including spectators—a number event organizer, the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Run Racing, Inc., feels is conservative.

The sixth largest turkey trot in the U.S., it has been named a Top 3 Thanksgiving Destination by Fodor’s Travel and Fitness Magazine proclaimed it “one of America’s best Thanksgiving Day runs.”

And each year, in the spirit of both “thanks” and “giving,” participants enjoy the opportunity to challenge themselves physically—thankful for good health—while giving back to the community in the process.

A 2013 Dana Point Turkey Trot finish line celebration. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
A 2013 Dana Point Turkey Trot finish line celebration. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

Each year, 100 percent of the net proceeds benefit local nonprofits and make a significant impact in the city and neighboring communities.

Beneficiaries, along with the nonprofit Chamber, this year are San Clemente-based Family Assistance Ministries, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley and the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association.

“We are excited to host another successful Turkey Trot in this, its 37th year,” said Heather Johnston, Chamber of Commerce executive director. “This event has enabled the Chamber to donate $150,000 to local charities over the last decade and more than $500,000 over its history.”

Lace Up Your Running Shoes

The Dana Point Turkey Trot offers races for everyone, from beginners and walkers to elite runners and children.

With a 10K, 5K and the 1-mile kids’ Gobble Wobble for children ages 5-12, the Turkey Trot is an invigorating and healthy way to begin the day of feasting.

The 5K race is split into two divisions, Masters age 40+ and ages 39 and under. There is also special pricing for choosing to register for both the 5K and 10K.

Advanced registration will be available, at a discounted rate, online at through Nov. 24. Prices go up when online registration closes. While logged in, entrants may also choose to make an additional donation to FAM, DSBIA or the Boys & Girls Club.

Runners may also register in person, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 26, from noon to 7 p.m. at the pre-registration site in Dana Marina Plaza, across from the Harbor on the northwest corner of Dana Point Harbor Drive and Golden Lantern. Onsite registration prices are $55 for the 10K, $50 for the 5K, the 5K/10K combo is $65 and the kids’ race is $20. Boys & Girls Club members and their families, along with active duty military personnel will receive a 50 percent discount.

Race-day registration and packet pick-up, Nov. 27, will be available at the same location from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. The event kicks off at 7 a.m. with the 10K. A full schedule of events is posted on the website.

Top male finishers at last year's Dana Point Turkey Trot 10K. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
Top male finishers at last year’s Dana Point Turkey Trot 10K. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

The Trot is a USA Track & Field sanctioned and certified event and the course takes runners on a tour of Dana Point’s most breathtaking sights—with the Pacific shore to one side and its majestic cliffs to the other—while winding through Doheny State Beach, the Dana Point Harbor marinas and crossing Island Way Bridge.

Runners will also be presented with tech shirts, race medals and a virtual goodie bag filled with an assortment of discounts and promotions from local businesses

The event’s two-day health and wellness expo is back, at the pre-registration site from noon to 7 p.m. on Nov. 26 and 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. on race day. According to Johnston, this year’s expo will be bigger and better than ever, with an expanded merchandise area and over 45 vendors.

Many runners choose to complete the race in holiday-themed costumes and then vie for prizes in the costume contest. On course, the fun will be kicked up a notch this year, said Vickie McMurchie, senior operations manager for the Chamber.

“We’re making it more fun and interactive by expanding the on-course entertainment” McMurchie said. “There will be photo booths, photo op stops and DJ Twerky spinning the tunes along the racecourse.”

It Takes a Village

Dana Point Turkey Trot 2013. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
Dana Point Turkey Trot 2013. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

Putting on such a large-scale event is made possible each year through the generous support of local sponsors.

New among the sponsors this year is Smart & Final. Tinamarie Squieri, the area field marketing associate for the company, said they are going beyond offering sponsorship and getting involved in helping to raise funds for the event’s beneficiaries.

“We are glad we can participate in continuing to support one of the communities we work and live in,” Squieri said.

Natalia Odebralski, community relations manager for the Chamber, said the organization is pleased to announce Smart & Final will be selling pumpkin pies along with other food items, alongside other sponsors, as a fundraiser at the expo. In the days leading up to the event they will also be sponsoring a turkey giveaway.

“From Nov. 1 through Nov. 20 Smart & Final in Capistrano Beach will be accepting entries to win free Thanksgiving turkeys and distributing a $5 off discount code toward Turkey Trot registration,” Odebralski said. “In addition, they are teaming up with our Turkey Trot charity, FAM, and will be donating turkeys to help those less fortunate.”

Giveaway winners will be announced at the store in a drawing on Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. No purchase necessary and the winner need not be present to win. The discount code is limited to 1,000 registrants.

Meet Special Guest Fitness Expert, Billy Blanks

Billy Blanks. Courtesy photo
Billy Blanks. Courtesy photo

Billy Blanks, internationally known creator of Tae Bo® and owner of the new Billy Blanks Ancient Arts Studio in Dana Point, has been named this year’s Turkey Trot official fitness expert.

In this role, Blanks has been working alongside the Chamber to bring a message of health and fitness to Boys & Girls Club members via an onsite fitness day, as well as appearing at other pre-race events.

On race day, he will be at the starting line to provide fitness tips, motivation and leading runners in pre-race stretching and warm-ups.

“I’m glad to be here and am thankful for this awesome opportunity to get more involved in the community,” Blanks said. “Anything I can do to connect with people and help them move toward a more physically active lifestyle, I ‘m all for it.”

Well-known as a humanitarian and philanthropist, Blanks has donated his time training members of the U.S. Armed Forces and helping people through his foundation. He has also earned acclaim as a world karate champion, actor, author and motivator.

“Physical fitness is not just a weight loss tool, it’s a self-awareness tool for life,” he said. “Confidence in your health and level of fitness motivated you to bigger and better things and I want to do my part to share that message.”

Find out more about Blank’s new Dana Point studio at


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