As many Iowa families gather this weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way with food and family, thousands of people take to the streets at Des Moines’ 8th Annual Turkey Trot.

About 5,000 athletes from 38 states and three countries converge on Thanksgiving morning in the capital of Iowa to run the Turkey Trot.

Michael Zimmerman, director of Rip Roar Events and promoter of Turkey Trot, said Thanksgiving was the busiest running event of the year in the region based on the number of attendees. He explained each year that the event builds camaraderie between family, friends and other runners.

“Anytime you have a running event on a holiday, especially a holiday that also has the highest calorie intake of any day of the year like Thanksgiving, you bring people down, you do something, you sweat together, you might suffer little bit while you’re walking,” Zimmerman sketched out. “And maybe it helps justify a second helping.”

Race organizers have partnered with local charities to collect coats for children on the north side of Des Moines and are also working with cancer and youth charities.

Race organizers found they faced a unique challenge this year, unrelated to a more difficult course or the weather, which last year was characterized by snow flurries and sub-zero temperatures. This year, Zimmerman says, everyone who finishes the race will get a cup of hot chocolate, and the keyword is “hot.”

“The biggest challenge we had at this year’s race is figuring out how to heat 350 gallons of water and mix in hot chocolate,” Zimmerman pointed out. “Well, I’m not kidding, our team will boil water, 10 gallons at a time on a six burner stove, and we’ll mix in 240 pounds of hot chocolate and serve it all within 45 minutes.”

Each year the event consists of three options for racers, a 5km course, a 5 mile course and a shorter event for children called ‘Tot Trob’.

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