Ashlee Nilson enjoys watching people flock to the annual Turkey Trot in Bismarck.
“I think it’s surprising how many people want to run on Thanksgiving Day. That always amazes me. It’s Bismarck, North Dakota. It’s not always the best weather,” said the 28-year-old Larimore woman.
Nilson’s family, including relatives in Bismarck, have been participating in the annual running event for at least a decade, which raises money for people with cystic fibrosis, like themselves. The Cystic Fibrosis Association of North Dakota, which runs the Turkey Trot, is an excellent cause, she said.
“They really helped our family personally,” says Nilson, who became a nurse after admiring the care nurses gave her growing up. “They’ve helped me through school. They’ve only helped me emotionally, financially, just that extra support along the way as someone with a chronic illness trying to be normal.”
The association’s 32nd annual Turkey Trot is Thursday morning, when nearly 2,000 participants are expected to gather for the running event through Sertoma Park and along River Road in Bismarck.
The 2020 event was completely virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic. But in other years, rain or shine or snow or sub-zero temperatures, the outdoor event continued as usual, said Pam Thompson, director of Association Development.
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“It has become a tradition for many people,” she says.
Families, friends and foreigners are coming out, as well as someone who wants to lead a Turkey Trot every year in every state, she said.
The Turkey Trot includes a 5K timed run, a 10K timed run, a 5K timed race walk, and an untimed family walk.
The event also has a virtual option that allows people to complete and report on their race in their own time.
The event typically raises about $40,000, after expenses, for the organization to help North Dakotans with cystic fibrosis pay for medications and travel to medical appointments. North Dakota has only two cystic fibrosis clinics, in Bismarck and Fargo. The organization also offers scholarships.
Sean Cleary, of Bismarck, likes to carry his stuff in a turkey costume, which keeps him warm, although it’s held together by safety pins and tape.
“This will be the sixth or seventh time I run in it,” he said.
The Turkey Trot is one of his favorite events of the year. He plans to run the 10K on Thursday.
“For me, it’s always a fun way to kick off the holidays with some family and friends and support a good cause,” says Cleary, who has been involved for more than 12 years since his days at St. Mary’s Central High School. His wife, Amy, and a friend join him.
Cleary’s costume will come in handy; Thursday looks set to be cold and windy, with highs around 30 degrees.
Nilson recalls a sub-zero year when her family tried to walk, but other people kept running.
Her family plans to gather at her aunt’s house in Bismarck after the Turkey Trot for their Thanksgiving meal.
At least 10 members of her family are taking part, now including her 9-month-old son Paul.
“It will be his first year competing,” she said.
Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or [email protected]