GRAND RAPIDS — Thursday marks the 28th annual Grand Rapids Turkey Trot, and not even the pandemic could stop this year's race.
There may not be thousands of people running at the Van Andel Arena downtown, but there are over 1,500 people running across West Michigan.
Kristin Babinski, physical education teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools is one of those individuals.
Babinski says this year will be her 24th year hitting the cold Van Andel pavement in a row, and she wouldn't miss it for the world.
"We have a family tradition," explains Babinski. "My dad always takes me to every race every year. So throughout the years of growing up, when I didn't live at home, he always picked me up nice and early then drops me off for race day."
Just like for Kristin, the Turkey Trot for thousands of Michigan families is a Thanksgiving must.
Some runners come donning turkey costumes, other Santa hats.
Almost all of the Turkey Trot traditionalists are proving even a pandemic can't stop this pre-feast cardio.
To socially distance, the 2020 Turkey Trot will be the first ever virtual one.
Kurt Johnson is the Executive Director for K-12 athletics at GRPS.
Johnson explains; "So virtually just means that you can run in your own environment, on your own time, on your own pace, and submit your time."
Johnson shares that keeping the good times running is imperative because; "This is one of our annual fundraisers that help offset the cost of pay to play."
"So with shrinking budgets with school districts one of the things that often happens is that a fee is assessed to participate in athletics. So for athletics to remain accessible for our student population, we do fundraisers to offset that cost."
In 2019 the Grand Rapids Turkey Trot raised over $100,000 for student athletics.
With recent cuts to education Johnson says. "that's a tremendous boost!"
Babinski elaborates that those funds make it so, "students get to pretty much play for free."
"It's very important to get our students involved in after school activities and sports because it helps keep our students in class, and keep their grades up."
In 2020 the Grand Rapids Turkey Trot is unique, but it's the same race in that every participant is keeping a beloved Thanksgiving tradition alive, and helping to make sports more accessible for Grand Rapids kids.
"I think this is something that many people do," says Babinski. "I don't know what people are going to do when they wake up on Thanksgiving and don't do a run. So I wouldn't be surprised if downtown Grand Rapids has random runners running everywhere on Thanksgiving."
If you are not running in the 2020 Grand Rapids Turkey Trot, you can still support GRPS athletics by donating here.