The holidays traditionally are a time to bond with family, eat home-cooked meals and relax - but for many, they also have become a time to to dust off those running shoes and hit the trail.
Turkey Trots - races held on or near Thanksgiving Day, traditionally at a 5K length, or 3.1 miles - are sweeping the nation, allowing Americans to set fitness goals, burn some extra calories before Thanksgiving dinner and have fun at the same time.
According to Active.com, approximately 318 of these races take place each year.
Themed and races, like “Turkey Trots” around Thanksgiving, have been a popular tradition for many years. Shown are runners from last year’s South Little League Turkey Trot.
The oldest was established in 1896 and takes place in Buffalo, N.Y.
Holiday races allow families to participate in physical activity together in a fun atmosphere, add a healthy tradition to the holidays and can give runners a jump start on their New Year's resolutions.
Erin Welsh, of Jersey Shore, is a South Little League Turkey Trot veteran.
"My husband, Seth, and I did the turkey trot in 2010, and that was pretty much both of our first races," she said. "We weren't runners before."
The couple decided to run the race in preparation for their honeymoon.
"Now, three years later, we've signed up for it again and we've both definitely improved," said Welsh, who has run two half-marathons, a relay marathon and a Tough Mudder since her first race.
Welsh said a holiday race is a great place for first-time runners to try things out.
"I think holiday-themed races are much more family-oriented and more friendly to people who are less competitive ... and I love seeing people's fabulous costumes," she said.
Welsh will get the chance to carry her holiday fun all the way through March, when she plans to run the St. Patrick's Day-themed Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach, Va.
Sarah MacIntyre, of South Williamsport, also loves holiday themed races. In addition to running the South Little League Turkey Trot at least three times, she also has participated in Halloween races and she ran the Disney Marathon right after Christmas, which was decorated for the holiday season.
"I think themed races like the turkey trot are less pressure and great for first-time racers to be a part of," MacIntyre said. "The race organizers do a great job making it different and a lot of fun. The door prizes and overall prizes are things such as a whole frozen turkey!"
MacIntyre added that holiday races are a great family bonding activity.
"I think holiday races are fun to bond because you get to let loose with the costumes, Santa hats or halloween socks. Kids can be involved and dress up or ride along in the stroller. Grandparents can walk or sometimes run and win their age groups! It's all about enjoying the time together while pounding the pavement. I know that I do majority of my races with family including my niece who is 4 years old and has already learned to love 'runny runs,' " MacIntyre said.
MacIntyre hopes to see first-time runners at this year's holiday races and maybe some of them will catch the running bug as well.
"Williamsport has a great running community and we are always happy to see new and old faces at the start line," she said. "You get to know so many people with the same love and it's a blast when you get to dress up and have fun doing it at holiday races."
Annual turkey trots are held all throughout November in Pennsylvania, from the Nov. 9 Turkey Trot in Bloomsburg to the races on Williampsort's river walk and in Danville on Nov. 16, to a plethora of races Thanksgiving Day in Berwick, Sayre, Latrobe and New Cumberland and a Dec. 30 race in Bethlehem.
Those who will visit family over the holidays can keep track of state races via parunners.com.
Holiday races will continue through December, with the Frostbite 5-miler, Dec. 8 in Duboistown; the Home for the Holidays 5K, Dec. 10 in Mansfield; the Running of the Elves 5K, Dec. 14 in Lewisburg; and Santa's Seven-miler, Dec. 21 in Williamsport. State College will wrap up the year's races with its annual Resolution Run, held in conjunction with First Night activities Dec. 31.
To keep up with local races, check out Elite Feet's race calendar at www.elitefeetinc.com/racecalendar.