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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Denton Turkey Trot. On Your Marks!

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By Corrie Pelc

Denton Area Running Club offers way more than just running for the Denton community.

While the Denton Area Running Club (DARC) provides plenty of opportunities to run, it also offers a variety of social activities — including its upcoming 6th Annual Downtown Denton Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning — and volunteer opportunities with other local nonprofits. 

Ready, Set, Go!

DARC was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 2015, however, its roots go back further than that, according to DARC Treasurer Audrey Word. 

National Running Day DARC
Runners at a special DARC National Running Day event. Photo by George Dellinger

Before DARC was formed, Word says Denton community members would get together socially on Wednesday evenings around Denton Square to run a 5K — about 3 miles — around the area. Oak Street Drafthouse owner John Williams would provide tickets to all the runners for a free shot at his bar afterwards. 

In November 2014, Word says Williams had the idea to run an informal Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. He charged a $15 registration fee, which included a T-shirt and beer glass for registrants and a donation to the Denton Community Food Center. “He thought 40-60 people would show up,” Word recalls. “We had over 400 people show up — it was a huge success.”

From there, those involved realized the potential they had for forming a nonprofit organization to produce an official annual Turkey Trot with a qualified and timed course. Thus DARC was formed in 2015. 

Annual Turkey Trot

This year, DARC is celebrating is 6th Annual Downtown Denton Turkey Trot (the group did not hold a Turkey Trot in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic) this Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 25th. According to Stephen Hidalgo — a member of DARC since 2016 who handles all sponsorships and marketing for the Turkey Trot — the race has had as many as 2,300 runners and walkers participate in the Turkey Trot. 

Turkey Trot Denton
Start of a past Turkey Trot race. Photo by George Dellinger

Hidalgo says the 3.1-mile course starts between Oak Street Drafthouse and the Civic Center off McKinney Street and takes participants by Texas Women’s University and its neighborhood, next to Quakertown Park, and around Denton Square. “We’re actually the only race in Denton that’s allowed to shut down the square … and city streets, because most of the other races (in Denton) either take place at South Lakes Park or North Lakes Park,” Hidalgo adds. 

In addition to being a way for people to start working off working off their Thanksgiving meals early, the annual Turkey Trot raises funds and collects canned foods for the Denton Community Food Center. According to Hidalgo, since the Turkey Trot began DARC has donated about $55,000 to the Denton Community Food Center. And each year entrants help fill up a large truck Food Center volunteers bring to the event with canned foods. 

At this year’s Turkey Trot, runners and walkers who bring in a canned food item receive a raffle ticket for gift baskets that are raffled off at the end of the race. 

More Than Running

Animal Shelter DARC
DARC runner volunteering as a dog walker for The Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center. Photo courtesy Denton Area Running Club

In addition to helping out the Denton Community Food Center, DARC also offers ways its members can help out The Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center. For starters, at this year’s Turkey Trot DARC will be collecting dog food donations for the shelter. 

Hidalgo also says DARC has a partnership with The Linda McNatt Animal Care & Adoption Center where members can go through specialized volunteer training to become walkers for dogs who are up for adoption. “The dogs who are in the shelter don’t necessarily get a lot of human interaction while they’re there, so having our runners be able to go there and take the dogs on a walk through North Lakes Park helps to enhance that human interaction to make them more adoptable,” Hidalgo explains. 

As part of the dog walker experience, volunteers take notes on their dogs’ behaviors that help the shelter find them suitable homes. And Word says DARC volunteer dog walkers also take photos of their dogs they post online in an effort to help them get adopted. 

Not Just for Members

Although DARC offers volunteer opportunities and training runs throughout the weeks that are only for members, many of the activities it offers are open to anyone in the Denton community.

In addition to the annual Turkey Trot, DARC runs two trail runs in the summer with proceeds helping out local nonprofits, as well as the Summer Series — a series of four to six 5K races held in various areas of Denton, such as Unicorn Lake and Avondale Park. According to Word, the Summer Series is completely free and open to non-DARC members. 

And DARC has continued the tradition that started it all with its weekly Wednesday night 5K social runs that are open to all members of the Denton community for free. “Some weeks we have 20 people depending on the weather, and other weeks we’ll have 150-200 people out there just running a free 5K,” Hidaglo says. “And if you run, you still get the shot tickets. John Williams has still continued that after all these years. And no matter how many runners are there, he’ll still give you a ticket.”

And Word says holding various free events like this helps DARC continue its mission of getting the Denton community active. “The whole idea of the Denton Area Running Club was of course to do our Turkey Trot, but it’s to get people exercising,” she adds. “We welcome everybody — fast, slow, walkers, runners, every age. We just want you to get out there and exercise.”

DARC will hold the 6th Annual Downtown Denton Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25, 2021 in downtown Denton. The race will include a Kids Gobble Wobble at 8:30am and a 5K race at 9am. Click here for registration information. 
For more information on DARC, its other races and membership, visit dentonarearunningclub.org.

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