WEB-EXCLUSIVE: The Dana Point Turkey Trot attracts thousands each year for pre-Thanksgiving meal exercise.
Many of us associate Thanksgiving with enjoying the company of our family while stuffing our faces with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Dana Point's Willa Porter looks forward to that same tradition, but starts the day off a little differently.
The 85-year-old has been running in the Dana Point Turkey Trot in Orange County each year since 1989. Held on Thanksgiving Day, more than 15,000 people attend and participate in the 5K each year before heading back home for dinner. This year, the Turkey Trot is celebrating its 36th anniversary.
Not participating in the event, Porter says, is like not putting up a tree in your house if you love to celebrate Christmas.
Porter’s secret to healthy longevity is to start and understand the importance of health at a young age.
“If you are the type of person that is committed to being healthy all throughout your life, the health stays with you,” Porter says.
Porter wins the 5K in her age group each year.
“I used to run on a daily basis, and although I don’t get the chance to do it much anymore, I’m still at the head of my game,” Porter says. “I really think it is important for people to get as much movement as they can. Generations ago, people had to grow their own food and milk their own cows — now we just sit at a desk all day.”
Porter keeps running because she enjoys seeing familiar faces each year, although a lot of the people in her age group slowly stop attending.
“I honestly just participate because it has become a part of my Thanksgiving holiday,” Porter says. “It is crowded ever year with so many people and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
Sometimes Porter brings her family with her to participate in the Trot.
“A while back I brought my grandchildren to the race just for fun, and ended up winning the race even though I wasn’t trying to,” Porter says. “It is really not about winning for me, it is about enjoying myself and having a good time.”
Porter recognizes that she may not be the runner she used to be, but she always intends to follow through and finish the race.
“I used to be a competitive runner just for the fun of it,” Porter says. “Now I just go super early in the morning, finish the 5K and head home to start cooking.”
Training for the Turkey Trot
Mo Langley, certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, is the expert trainer for the Turkey Trot this year. While this is her first year as the fitness expert for the event, she has competed in it several times in the past and last year volunteered as a course marshal.
“The training program I put together is for the everyday couch potato who wants to do their first 5K,” Langley says. “I have structured it for a beginning walker, and paced it so they could get through the training schedule having fun and injury-free.”
Langley has been a personal trainer since 1999 working in Orange County, and trains clients of all shapes, sizes and ages.
“The most important thing to keep in mind for the Turkey Trot is to have fun,” Langley says. “For first-timers, don’t worry about your finish line, think about the smile you will have plastered on your face when you cross that finish line.”
Langley says this event is not that much different than other 5k or 10k courses, as it is a flat, fast course made more fun by people in costume.
“No special requirements are necessary,” Langley says. “Just a good attitude and a goal of completing the race before you stuff your face!”
Here are some of Langley’s 5K training tips:
Stay active for at least 30 minutes a day.
Set a goal for yourself — increase speed, frequency or duration.
Get some supportive shoes.
Plan ahead to stay active — sign up for workout classes and commit.
Find a walking buddy.