She runs only about three 5Ks each year, but Jill Yesner says she'll never miss Thanksgiving Day.
"I guess everybody wants to burn off the calories before they eat," says Yesner, of Boca Raton, who'll run the sixth annual Adolph & Rose Levis JCC 5K in Boca Raton on Thursday. "It just sets you up for the rest of the day."
Thanksgiving is by far the largest 5K day in South Florida, with eight races all starting by 8 a.m. Thursday. More than 20,000 people will run, walk or waddle those 3.1 miles, a few festively dressed as pilgrims or turkeys.
Six of South Florida's eight 5K races are less than a decade old, and some have become quick favorites, including the Fort Lauderdale race, which drew almost 2,000 in 2013, its third year. Delray Beach gets a jump on everybody, with its Turkey Trot on Saturday.
Rick Stern, whose SplitSecondTiming company records race results in Tamarac, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, said there's a lot of huffin' before the stuffin'. Turkey day registrations are "easily" up 20 percent this year from last, he said, and has quadrupled since eight years ago.
"The most popular day. By far," Stern said.
Running in general is experiencing a boom, he says, particularly among casual runners who don't care as much about speed.
"When I first started in this business 36 years ago, the only race around was a 10K thing, and they'd run them in 45, maybe 50 minutes," he says. "But there's been a 180-degree turnaround, and some people take up to an hour for a 5K. They're there for the exercise."
Thanksgiving is also a good day for family recreation because it's a holiday that doesn't include a morning of worship or opening presents, and afternoons often include tryptophan-induced naps.
Chad Williams has registered his family for their second Boca JCC 5K. His daughter, Emily, won the 10-and-under age group last year, and hopes to break 24 minutes this time.
"It's a fun way to bond with your family and we're trying to create it as a tradition and reinforce fitness," he said. "It's also something we often talk about in the weeks prior, and you have to get ready for the race."
The dashing before drumsticks does offset some of the guilt of over-eating, but the math still tilts toward a weight gain on Thanksgiving. A participant-sports web site, Athlinks.com, calculated that the average 5K runner will burn about 460 calories during a 3.1-mile race. But before the day is done, most people will consume about 3,000 calories.
That means to break even, you'd have to run just about every South Florida race.
Thanksgiving Day races
Races usually cost about $25 in advance to participate. Check each event website to make sure they accept race-day entries.
14th annual Race 4 the Pies, 4-Miler and 100-yard kids' dash, 8 a.m., Constitution Park, Tequesta; PalmBeachRoadRunners.com.
Sixth annual Adolph & Rose Levis JCC 5K Run/Walk, 7:30 a.m. at South County Regional Park Boca Raton; LevisJCC.org/5k.
Fourth annual Fort Lauderdale Turkey Trot, 7:30 a.m., A1A and Las Olas Boulevard; SplitSecondTiming.com.
34rd annual Tamarac Turkey Trot, 7:30 a.m. Tamarac City Hall; SplitSecondTiming.com.
Ninth annual Baptist Health South Florida Turkey Trot 5K-10K, 7:30 a.m. Tropical Park, MiamiTurkeyTrot.com.
Sixth annual Town of Palm Beach United Way 5K Turkey Trot, 7 a.m. Bradley Park; PalmBeachUnitedWay.org/2013turkeytrot.
Fourth annual Palm City Turkey Trot 5K, 7:30 a.m., Palm City Presbyterian Church; SailFishStriders.com.
Second annual Jungle Island 5K Turkey Trot, 8 a.m., MultiRace.com.