Whether you call it a Gobble, Turkey Trot, or Thanksgiving Day race, it is a tradition that goes back a long ways. According to Wikipedia, the Buffalo, New York Turkey Trot race, established in 1896, is the oldest continually running public footrace in North America.
Many courses used for these Thanksgiving events are run at major certified USA Track and Field road race distances between 5,000 and 42,195 meters. Some organizations hold their Turkey Trots the week prior to Thanksgiving in order to provide festive holiday meals to homeless and low-income families in their community. Turkey Trots range in size from just a few dozen runners to tens of thousands. Most Turkey Trots benefit local charities (1).
How did the Gobble Gobble get started?
The Gobble Gobble Four Miler was started in 2001 by the club, Striders of Southwest Florida, under the direction of Fran Fidler and Doug Hebel. The Striders club eventually disbanded and the event was continued by Matthew Sonneborn, a runner and orchestral trumpet player, and Matthew Erickson who then worked for New Balance Naples (Matt Erickson has since moved to St Petersberg where he and his wife have started a family and a real estate business together).
With about $100 left in the club’s account, and very little time to put on the event, the two of them still believed that there was a huge untapped market in Naples. People who walked or jogged and families who wanted to come out to support a cause but may be have been intimidated by timed competitive events. That said, Sonneborn and Erickson also wanted to satisfy the competitive runners too, as they liked running and training hard. The two of them would riff about getting turkeys for awards, getting a raffle going with the support of area businesses, and selling tickets around town and at work. The whole idea was to try and get folks moving, have some pie and try and give back to area charities. It was very much about family and community.
The focus was also to try and create win/wins for the community. Charities included Joe Logsdon Foundation, Harry Chapin Food Banks, and later St Matthew’s House and 95210 Kids on the Go. As the event has progressed through the years, Gobble started adding ‘layers of good’. Sonneborn loves the coffee community, so he reached out to a local roaster and had Johann Saubier’s company, Jojoka Coffee, serve delicious coffee at the event to benefit the charity Coffee Kids.
Then came the idea of making it a green event. The bike valet was established, a green expo began, and cup-free racing was introduced. Around this time the popularity of the event expanded,so much that a dedicated website was created and paperless online registration was introduced. The event began to sell out in 2011 and the chip timed event was used to split the race, making the quality of the event higher for all participants.
We hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit more about this Naples Tradition. What are your favorite parts of the Gobble? What do you look forward to every year? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!