DERRY — It's a Thanksgiving tradition that draws people from all over the area to come to Derry for a 5K run prior to that big holiday meal.
And this year's event promises to continue that tradition with some changes put in place to keep participants safe as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Greater Derry Track Club hosts its 47th annual 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, with staggered starts beginning at 7:30 a.m. and running up until 9 a.m. at Galliens Beach at Beaver Lake.
The annual event brings runners together from all over — individuals and their families, friends and children — coming to Derry for the morning run.
It's also the oldest Turkey Trot in New Hampshire.
In past years, the Thanksgiving Day race would draw more than 1,000 participants — this year the in-person allowance for runners is 500.
There will also be a virtual option so runners can run anytime from Nov. 26-29. There will be no race day registrations.
Clint Havens, in his first year as race director, said talks began this past summer to handle the race due to coronavirus concerns. A lot of other regional races were being canceled, he said, but ideas came about as to how to continue the Thanksgiving Day race safely.
"We got some positive feedback," Havens said, adding the changes to only allow 500 in-person runners on race day, along with the staggered start for runners in four different waves, will keep social distancing possible and adhere to state guidelines that monitor ways to safely host a big event like this.
Masks will also be required at the Turkey Trot, Havens said, with the exception of those actively running.
"It will have a different feel this year," said John McGarry, a longtime member of the Greater Derry Track Club. "The whole objective was to still have the race and stage the start so everyone has the right amount of space."
Havens and McGarry agreed it's the tradition of getting people together on Thanksgiving with some challenges added in this year for keeping people extra safe.
"Doing it this way will be the best of both worlds," McGarry said.
In addition to the actual race, the Turkey Trot serves as a community mission to help those in need. Runners are asked to bring nonperishable food items that will support local food pantries. Monetary donations are also welcome.
The Greater Derry Track Club is a nonprofit organization started in 1978 and devoted to promoting running-related activities and improvements in the community. The club not only hosts the annual Turkey Trot, but other projects and programs throughout the year including the annual summer Fun Runs for children, the Boston Prep 16-Miler, and the Couch to 5K program.