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A group of racers sets off from the Dana Point Turkey Trot starting line on Thanksgiving Day 2011. Photo by Andrea Swayne

Turkey Trot information and an interview with special guest Dean Karnazes

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By Andrea Swayne

This Thanksgiving marks the 35th running of the annual Dana Point Turkey Trot, an event that has become a cherished holiday tradition for thousands of Dana Point families as well as many who travel to the city each year to participate.

Aside from the early morning fun of joining nearly 11,000 runners, many in amusing costumes, this year’s Turkey Trot also offers participants meaningful opportunities to engage in both “thanks” and “giving” to Camp Pendleton-base Marines, Sailors and their families.

Event organizer, the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, has earmarked proceeds to go toward supporting the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group’s efforts to show our active duty 5th Marines the community’s appreciation and lend support to them and their families whether in-country or deployed.

In addition to running in the event, participants may elect to make an additional donation to sponsor a Marine, their spouse, or child’s entry into the event or to purchase a post-event Thanksgiving dinner for them at Mahé Restaurant.

The 5th Marine Regiment Support Group is reporting that although this year’s Thanksgiving dinner program has so far attracted much attention by members of the community wishing to dine with Marines at Mahé Restaurant following the Turkey Trot, the support group is still in need of donations to sponsor dinners for the honored guests.

“The public’s support of the Thanksgiving dinner at Mahé for our 5th Marines has been outstanding; so much that we are now sold out of civilian dinner reservations,” Alan Wickstrom, director said  “We are, however, still in need of sponsorship for our Marines’ dinners.”

Wickstrom added that although Mahé foots much of the dinner bill—along with providing the venue, chefs and staff to make the dinner a success—the support group relies on donations from race participants and other members of the community to feed the Marines and their families after the event.

There are two other opportunities, besides simply entering the race, for the public to contribute to the support group’s efforts.

Participants can elect to add an additional donation to their entry fee when registering for the race, or for those who want to contribute without running, donations can be made online at or

Donations may also be sent via mail to the 5th Marine Regiment Support Group at P.O. Box 471, Dana Point, CA 92629-0471.

For information on where and how to drop off a donation, call the Support Group at 949.378.7984.

Participants at last year’s Dana Point Turkey Trot donned event T-shirts and amusing costumes to take part in the annual 5K, 10K and Kids’ Fun Run on Thanksgiving Day. Photo by Andrea Swayne


The Turkey Trot offers something for everyone from elite runners to beginners and walkers, so even if the race has not yet become a tradition in your family, why not give it a try this year.

With a 10K, 5K and Mission Hospital Kids’ Gobble Wobble as well as the Aviir Health and Wellness Expo, the Turkey Trot is a healthy and energizing way to kick off Thanksgiving Day.

Advanced registration is available online at through November 19.

Onsite registration will be available Wednesday, November 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Dana Marina Plaza parking lot at the corner of Dana Point Harbor Drive and Golden Lantern, near Mahé Restaurant.

The two-day Aviir Wellness Expo begins November 21 with highlights including a talk and book signing at 1 p.m. by ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes, courtesy of event sponsor The Greek Gods Greek Yogurt.

Expo attendees are also welcome to join Karnazes on a 1-mile Harbor run beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Race day registration will run from 6 a.m. to noon in the same parking lot.

Karnazes will also be in attendance on race day to kick off the 10K and to run alongside participants of the Mission Hospital Kids’ Gobble Wobble.

The Aviir Health and Wellness Expo will also include free diagnostic heart testing by Aviir, flu shots by Walgreens and free samples from The Greek Gods Yogurt.  The Chamber will also be offering all new Turkey Trot themed merchandise for sale.

“This year’s event will be bigger and better with an expanded health and wellness expo, tech shirts and upgraded competition level medals. Plus race division medals for a variety of age groups,” said Heather Johnston, Chamber of Commerce executive director.

In addition, the top three finishers in each age group will be presented with special winners’ medals.


Dean Karnazes. Courtesy photo

A Conversation with Dean Karnazes

The Dana Point Times caught up with special event guest, endurance athlete, best-selling author and speaker, Dean Karnazes, to discuss his participation in this year’s Turkey Trot and to gather his advice for race participants, whether beginners or experienced racers.

Karnazes has been hailed by Men’s Fitness Magazine as one of the world’s fittest athletes and one of TIME Magazine’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Karnazes is credited with a host of extraordinary feats of endurance including his most recent endeavor, running 50 marathons, on 50 consecutive days, in all 50 states.

Here is a sampling of what he had to say:

DP Times: I have heard that you once lived in this area. True? If so, can you tell us a little bit about how it feels to be a guest of honor at such a long-running local event like the 35th Annual Dana Point Turkey Trot?

KARNAZES: Indeed true. Although I currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area, I graduated from San Clemente High and my parents and brother still live in the area. In fact, my nephew, Nicholas, attends Dana Hills High School. All of my family is running the Dana Point Turkey Trot this year and we’re all very excited. I first ran the Dana Point Turkey Trot over a decade ago. It is a fantastic event and I am thrilled to be back.

 You run with what seems to be super-human endurance and dedication. How much of your ability is innate and how much is training?

While I don’t consider myself “super-human,” my body does have certain qualities that allow me to run long distances. Of course, rigorous physical training is a crucial component of preparing a body for such challenges, but there are other factors of equal importance. Diet and nutrition play an essential role, as does mental focus and determination. Running hundreds of miles in a clip is as much of a mental challenge as a physical one.

What advice can you give to recreational runners who would like to improve their endurance/go farther, faster and longer?

Every runner is different. The best advice is to listen to everyone, follow no one. What works for me may not work equally well for you. Experiment, try new things, keep an open mind and learn as you progress. Ultimately, only you can determine what works best for you.

Do you have any quick tips beginners running the Turkey Trot for the first time?

Sure, don’t beat me! (laughter). Seriously, I applaud all those who are just starting out and the best guidance I can offer is to try and enjoy yourself. The course is incredibly scenic so engage in the surrounds. Sure, there will be pain, there’s no denying that. But embrace that pain and overcome it. The difficultly makes the reward of finishing all the more meaningful. If that doesn’t work, think about the extra slice of pumpkin pie you can enjoy for Thanksgiving because of the calories you burned during the run (more laughter).

Run if you can; walk if you have to; crawl if you must; just never give up!

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