Turkey Trot Champions talk strategy, share memories

Nataleah Small

For the past 28 years, runners have braved the late autumn chill to participate in the ThunderCloud Subs Turket Trot on Thanksgiving morning.

The 5-mile run has grown to be the largest of its kind in Texas, with 20,000 runners set to participate and 700 registered to volunteer for the race, according to the ThunderCloud Subs website. Proceeds from the 29th Annual Turkey Trot will be donated to Caritas of Austin, a nonprofit organization that assists people experiencing homelessness in the Austin community.

Runners are able to participate in four different events that cater to all ages and abilities including the Kids K and the Timed 5 Mile Run. According to three of last year’s top contenders, the race is both a conditioning exercise for longer races scheduled later in the year and a family tradition that helps unite the community before reveling in the holiday festivities.

Rory Tunningley, UT alumnus placed first overall in last year’s race and works at RunLab, a sports medicine and training center for runners. Tunningley said he started competing in the Turkey Trot when he was 12 years old.

Tunningley said he runs because he enjoys the competition, and he likes to push himself. He said he can imagine himself winning again this year, but doesn’t want to enter the competition assuming it will be too easy.

“When I think it’s going to be easier, if I think I’m going to win, it’s usually harder than if I would expect that I’m gonna have to work really hard to win or run well,” Tunningley said.

Rachel Baptista works at a running store and training center in Austin. Last year, Baptista said she placed first in the female category and 14th overall.


Baptista said she became interested in running during high school when she would run to help her get in shape for soccer. But once she realized she was better at running, she decided to switch her focus to activities such as cross-country.

“I started noticing a lot of successes,” Baptista said. “I started doing really well at it and I was like, ‘I kind of like this. I like being good at something.’”

Baptista said she loves participating in the Turkey Trot. She said she likes being with her family on race day and enjoys the crowded atmosphere of runners.

In the 2018 Turkey Trot, Erik Stanley, UT alumnus, placed second overall. Last year, he said his wife ran and pushed their child in the stroller as he ran ahead, cell phone in hand, so the two could contact each other once they both reached the finish line. After the birth of their child, Stanley said he and his wife discussed making the Turkey Trot an annual tradition.

Stanley said the race is a good way to do something active and healthy on the morning of a gluttonous holiday.

“It kind of helps the rest of the day after you’ve put some hard work in in the morning,” Stanley said. “Then you can relax and hang out with everyone the rest of the day.”