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The costume contest at the annual Encinitas Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day is a crowd and runner favorite. Courtesy photo
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Encinitas Turkey Trot set for second year

ENCINITAS — Six or seven years ago (he can’t remember), Steve Lebherz visited one of his brothers in San Jose for Thanksgiving. His brother invited him to participate in a race before the family sat down for Thanksgiving Dinner. The race was called the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot.

Lebherz said what happened next was eye opening.

“We go to downtown San Jose, and it’s raining and cold, but I get there, and there are 24,000 people ready to run in this race,” Lebherz said. “My first thought was, wow this is a lot of people. My next thought was, I flew 500 miles to your house so that I can sit in the misting rain storm at 7 a.m. to run in a race?”

After a second cold, rainy Turkey Trot, Lebherz said to himself, “Why go to San Jose and run the race in the rain when you can put one on in sunny Encinitas?”

For a second consecutive year, that is what Lebherz is doing, as The Encinitas Turkey Trot — a 5K and 10K race through downtown Encinitas and Cardiff — is slated for Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 26.

“Last year was a lot of fun, and we’re definitely looking forward to making this a tradition in Encinitas,” said Lebherz, who also organizes the popular Cardiff Kook Run in February.

Thanksgiving morning races are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, as Baby Boomers and others are looking for alternative calorie-burning pre-meal activities to the traditional pre-Thanksgiving football games and hockey matches.

According to running magazines, there are more than 1,000 such “Turkey Trots” nationwide.

“People have more time on their hands, and more people than ever are flying and visiting with friends on family on Thanksgiving and they are looking for something to do before they eat,” Lebherz said. “Since you’re not going to put grandma and grandpa in a flag-football game, the phenomena of the turkey trot has kind of taken off.”

The majority of the 2,000 or so participants in last year’s race were 5K walkers composed of families and seniors, Lebherz said.

This year, Lebherz said, they are anticipating more than 2,500 people, depending on the weather.

The race has several other components that add to the festivities.

A costume contest, which starts at 8 a.m., cash prizes to the three participants who best display the spirit of the annual event. First prize is a cool $350 and second and third prize are $200 and $100 respectively.

Additionally, VG Donut and Bakery, one of Cardiff’s most popular attractions, will be donating 25 full Thanksgiving dinners for four to 25 active duty military families, with the local Coco’s restaurant chipping in with 25 pumpkin pies.

Racers will also have opportunities for altruism. Race organizers are asking runners to donate canned goods or non-perishable foods when they pick up their race packs at Road Runner Sports in Carlsbad.

The food will be donated to the San Diego Food Bank.

For more information on the event, visit