Pandemic won’t stop turkey trot

Turkey Trot
Courtesy of Kjersti Nelson
Participants line up to run last year’s Spartan Turkey Trot at Mountain View High. This year’s event will be virtual, and participants can run it anytime over Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Spartan Turkey Trot has transitioned from a gathering of more than 1,000 people at Mountain View High to a more intimate event this year. The 11th annual race is going virtual.

“I’m excited that we’re still able to hold it and don’t have to cancel,” said Kjersti Nelson, who’s in her third year as volunteer race director. “It’s a good community event – it builds so much community spirit.”

A major fundraiser for Mountain View High athletics, the turkey trot typically takes place Thanksgiving morning. Starting and finishing at the school track, the 5K course also takes runners and walkers into the surrounding neighborhood.

This year, participants can take on the 5K and/or the Spartan Mile anytime over Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 26-29) and choose their own course.

“You can do it on your own time and still make it part of your tradition,” Nelson said.

Last year, a record 1,400 people made the event part of their holiday. There may have been even more who wanted to participate, but the race is capped at that number.

That won’t be a problem this year – anyone who registers can give it a go.

“That’s the bonus of being virtual,” Nelson said. “Another thing is that we don’t need a hundred volunteers – it’s easier to put it together. And no police presence is needed, which reduces the cost.”

The downside, however, is the likelihood that not as many people will register for the race because of the format change.

“A virtual race probably lowers the number, but we are hopeful about getting a pretty good number,” Nelson said Thursday afternoon. “We are at 50% of where we were last year at this time, but the last three weeks is when we usually get the majority of registrations.”

Although a thousand-plus people won’t be crowding the starting line – with many hoping to finish in the running for a prize or just place ahead of their friends and family – Nelson noted that virtual races can still be competitive. An experienced runner and long-distance run coach, the Los Altos resident has seen that in the handful of virtual races she’s participated in.

“It’s all about mindset,” Nelson said. “You’re still competing with people, even if you can’t see them. It’s still possible to have that competitive spirit.”

And there are still prizes to be had. The top three finishers in the male and female divisions of the 5K and Spartan Mile races will receive a gift certificate for a Marie Callender’s pie and a gift certificate to A Runner’s Mind in downtown Los Altos.

To be eligible, participants need to submit their results online, doing so “on their honor,” Nelson said, adding that race officials will be watching for anything out of the ordinary.

Like past years, there will be an opening ceremony – only it will be recorded this time – that will include the national anthem and a few words from Spartan Turkey Trot founder Mike Mulkey.

“We want to make this special,” Nelson said.

The funds raised by the event “are extremely important” to Mountain View High athletics, according to sports boosters president Brett Schiller. Proceeds often go toward buying new uniforms and equipment and even upgrading facilities.

“The project list is long and ongoing,” Schiller said. “And we spread (the money) around. We reach out to all the sports.”

Race registration is $30 for adults, $20 for ages 5-17 – discounted to $15 for students at Mountain View and Los Altos highs – and $10 for children under 5. Those who register by Nov. 12 are guaranteed to receive a race T-shirt prior to the event.

Race packets that include the shirts will be distributed Nov. 25 at Mountain View High; participants just need to pull into the parking lot to pick them up from a volunteer.

To register, volunteer and for more information, visit

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