Food, football and family captures a classic Thanksgiving Day in the United States. One BYU grad is using his own Turkey Day tradition to help others.
Travis Lovell enjoys running when he has the time. Lovell attended BYU as an undergrad in 2009 and one day found himself with nothing to do. He had just finished a lifeguarding shift at the RB and decided to ask a friend, Lauren Romeril, to join him in an impromptu 5K run on Thanksgiving Day.
He told Romeril that running on Thanksgiving was something he liked to do and that Americans have been known to run that day.
Romeril, a Canadian, assumed it was a normal, American tradition to run a 5K on Thanksgiving. She realized she was not so prepared for the run.
“He kicked my butt,” Romeril said. She was still excited to participate and helped Lovell come up with the 5K name, Travis Turkey Trot. Only Romeril and Lovell ran that day, but they decided to start a tradition of running on Thanksgiving.
Lovell’s family found out about the event the following Thanksgiving. Most of his family members asked him why he had kept it a secret from them.
Soon his family joined in, each in their hometowns of California, Utah, Washington and Australia. Each participant could run where they lived. Each participant, using the honor system, entered their run time in a Google document.
“We had a runner in Australia, making this an international 5K,” Lovell said.
The following Thanksgiving, Lovell decided a shirt should be made and distributed to participants. All the racing fees went to producing and distributing the shirts. Lovell realized that collecting money had potential to do something good. He turned his passion for running into an endeavor of service.
Each year, the number of people who run the Turkey Trot grows. Lovell’s family all participates, and some people out of state have decided to join in on the run, feeling a part of the bigger group even hundreds of miles apart.
“I realized that I could help and strengthen those around me,” he said. “All I was doing was asking people to donate.”
Lovell picked a charity in 2014 that he felt passionate about. Lovell lived in San Antonio and had a decided to donate the extra revenue to a local homeless shelter called Haven For Hope.
The shelter’s manager received the donations, but didn’t recognize the donor. As runners joined the 5K nationwide, donations came in from all over the country.
“Haven for Hope got my donation and wondered, ‘Why is someone in Boston donating money to us?'” Lovell said.
This year will be the 7th annual Travis Turkey Trot. Lovell has decided to donate this year’s funds to College Track, an organization that helps middle and high schools students complete college.
“We’re empowering students to earn a college degree,” said Thomas Munoz, a site director for College Track in Sacramento.
College Track didn’t know until recently that Lovell was planning on giving the race’s proceeds to the organization. Munoz found out one day when he and Lovell were having a conversation and Lovell continued to ask about the charity.
“I chose College Track because they support the academic and social support needed for students to get through college,” Lovell said.
One runner found it easier to run the Travis Turkey Trot than most other races, and she’s running on the east coast this year.
“This year, I’m planning on organizing my own route in New York,” said Kami Coppins, a BYU alumna now living in Boston. “You don’t have to make a route in a certain amount of time.”
Another past participant was glad to set a personal record. “Because I run on a treadmill, I usually don’t have an accurate idea of my pace,” said Owen Bennion, a friend of Lovell who runs the Turkey Trot on the treadmill. “I was happy to run a lot faster than I expected.”
This year, Lovell’s nephew will run on his mission with his mission companion in Long Beach, California.
Lovell has come out the winner each year despite having new competitors show. He welcomes anyone to overthrow his time.
The 5K is expected to have over 200 participants this year. The total participants doubles each year thanks to family and friend referrals. Anyone interested can check out the Facebook page for details on how to register and participate.