A new tradition: Prospect Park Track Club works to raise money and awareness for Native American org at annual Turkey Trot

people at turkey trot race for reconciliation
The Prospect Park Track Club will raise money for the American Indian Community House at the second annual Race for Reconciliation on Nov. 24.
File photo courtesy of Marek Stepniowski/Prospect Park Track Club

For dedicated runners in need of a pre-Thanksgiving dinner fix, the Prospect Park Track Club is offering a different kind of turkey trot, where runners will get in their daily dose of exercise while taking a deeper look at their holiday traditions.

The Turkey Trot: Race for Reconciliation 5-Miler welcomes runners of all ages to have a fun Thanksgiving morning for a good cause. For the second year in a row, the track club is hosting the race in partnership with the American Indian Community House, a nonprofit that works to increase the visibility of the American Indian community. 

While Thanksgiving Day races are a tradition in communities across the country, they often celebrate the surface-level story of the holiday — rather than acknowledging the “more complex” history. The Prospect Park Track Club, a non-profit organization that welcomes runners of all ages and uses each race they host to raise funds for various causes and organizations — like AICH — and is also working with the org to establish a more modern tradition. 

prospect park track club
The club raises funds for various causes and organizations at each of their races. File photo courtesy of Marek Stepniowski/Prospect Park Track Club

“We have bibs that are distinctly charity bibs, and the entire cost of that goes directly to the American Indian Community House so it is exciting that those bibs sell out and they are some of the first bibs ordered for the race as folks are excited to give money to AICH,”  said Laura Elliott, race director for this year’s Turkey Trot.

AICH was founded in 1969 to serve the needs of Native Americans in New York City and to “increase the visibility of American Indian cultures in an urban setting in order to cultivate awareness, understanding and respect,” according to the organization’s website. 

Last year, AICH received nearly $20,000 in charitable donations from funds raised at the race, and organizers hope to do the same again this year.

Yet another way that the Prospect Park Track Club has worked to bring awareness to the American Indian community is by incorporating land acknowledgements — which pay homage to the Indigenous communities that first lived in New York City — at their races. 

The land acknowledgement at the Turkey Trot will be given by AICH and who will be accompanied by traditional songs and a dreamcatcher.

“Prospect Park Track Club has started incorporating land acknowledgments into all of our races just as an awareness and an honoring of that Indigenous of the Indigenous communities that are native to the city and to prevent them from further erasure,” said Elliott.

Prospect Park — along with most of Brooklyn and New York City as a whole — was originally home to the Lenape.

While the land acknowledgement might have special meaning at the Turkey Trot, it’s something the club does at each event it holds. 

“I think it’s great that we’ve really made it a habit to do the land acknowledgement for every single race at the start of every race,” said race director Blair Smith. “It’s not just something that we do for Thanksgiving and for Race for Reconciliation. So I think just making it a habit, and to be constantly thinking about it is really important.”

turkey trot prospect park track club
The event seeks to dive into the more in-depth history of the Thanksgiving holiday. Photo courtesy of Prospect Park Track Club

All participants will receive a medal upon completion of the race, as well as one of this year’s commemorative hats, an iconic symbol of the race and a must-have collectors item for Turkey Trot fans. The first three finishers of each of the three gender categories will receive a special prize: a pie to be enjoyed during their post-race Thanksgiving feast.

The popular race usually fills up by mid-October, so not everyone was able to join the club for the five-mile loop around Brooklyn’s Backyard.

“We’re just really excited for this week and looking forward to seeing everyone coming out on Thursday,” said Smith. “Anyone who wasn’t able to join us, we really hope that you consider joining us next year because we know there were a lot of people that unfortunately weren’t weren’t able to snag a spot. But, yeah just a huge thank you to the Brooklyn community for making this race possible.”