Despite all the outward appearances—the fake plumage, the yellow beak, a pair of wings flapped—Soyoung Kim turned out to be no turkey on a sunny Thanksgiving morning.
Even if, in her own words, she seemed overcooked.
“After that, I’ll be a bone-dry turkey,” Kim said with a laugh while wearing a sultry head-to-toe turkey outfit for a morning run.
Thousands of people — many of them dressed in turkey outfits and accented with running shoes — galloped along Lake Merritt and through downtown Oakland for the Oakland Turkey Trot Thursday morning. The annual 5K was one of several pre-Thanksgiving running events held Thursday across the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, San Jose and Walnut Creek.
Each offered residents a chance to burn off a few calories before the day’s strenuous activities, often while raising money for local charities.
“It’s all about building a community, one turkey leg at a time,” said Eduardo Neal, 51, who, like Kim, donned a turkey suit for the affair.
At least 4,200 people took part in Oakland’s race, which was set to raise about $50,000 for a range of nonprofits and charities across the city, said Ryan Dawkins, the race’s director. These beneficiaries included the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Oakland Public Education Fund’s AZ Fund, and Running for a Better Oakland.
The celebrations marked a return to normalcy for race organizers after the pandemic took a significant chunk out of registrations and donations for the annual gathering. The organizers chose to hold the 2020 event virtually, allowing participants to run 5km alone rather than taking part as a large group. Although they returned to Lake Merritt last year, only about 3,200 people showed up for the 2021 event.
Fundraising was also a hit, raising just over $20,000 during last year’s race, Dawkins said. This year’s total seemed closer to 2019’s tally, when $50,000 was raised among about 5,000 participants.
“I feel like people have been more in the spirit of giving this year,” Dawkins said.
For most attendees, the event offered a chance to earn an extra piece of cake and a second helping of filling in the hours to come.
Mayor Libby Schaaf participated in a pre-race countdown and cheered on the hordes of galloping gluttons as they jogged down Lakeshore Avenue near The Pergola on Lake Merritt.
“It just shows the beauty of Oakland — look at this weather, look at this community,” Schaaf said. “There is much to be thankful for.”
TJ Hadidian, 30, brought all the way. Disguised as butter, he stood flanked by friends and family dressed as a carrot, corn on the cob, green bean casserole, a piece of gingerbread, cranberry sauce, cucumber, pineapple and – of course – a turkey.
It’s not about going fast, he said. It was all about reaching the finish line.
“It’s not very aerodynamic,” said Hadidian, gesturing toward his butter suit. “We’re not here to win. We are here to look good.”
Alisa Lai, who sported a hat in the shape of a pumpkin pie — complete with a dollop of whipped cream — called the gathering something even greater: A true Thanksgiving Day tradition, one as necessary as the baked dessert on her head.
“We have many things to be grateful for,” said Lai, 38, of Pleasanton. “One of the things about the running community is that you can make friends that become family. That’s what Thanksgiving is about.”
Not to mention it also helped free up space in her tummy for the upcoming feast.
“I feel less guilty — I feel like if I have two pieces of cake, that’s fine because I ran three miles,” Lai added. “It’s a balancing act.”