The Turkey Trot, an uphill, 2.5-mile race around campus, is Lehigh’s longest-running Rivalry Week tradition. This year’s run will be the 62nd annual race.
The tradition first started in 1953, when Lehigh was still an all-male university.
Jane Josephson, the director of intramural sports and recreation, has been organizing the race for the past 29 years. She believes the Turkey Trot is one of Lehigh’s greatest Rivalry Week traditions.
“When we talk about tradition, other than the football game, this is No. 2,” Josephson said, “I’m all about tradition. As a student, I️ was involved in everything. I️ would like to be the one 20 years from now and say, ‘I️ did that.'”
However, Josephson has found that participation in the run has decreased over time.
“We have had numbers where 800 kids participated,” Josephson said. “Back in the day, students didn’t have all these others clubs and organizations. So as those things change, what students like to do changes.”
This year, there will be 320 participants in the Turkey Trot and 73 participants in the Too Hot to Trot, a 1-mile walk around the lower part of campus.
The Turkey Trot starts by the UC Front Lawn and loops up through the Hill.
“It pretty much follows the Packard Express bus route,” Emily Krulik, ’18, said.
Krulik has participated in the Turkey Trot for the past three years. She said many students and professors run in the event, which inspires school spirit. Krulik said the run gets the school riled up and excited.
Josephson said it has become part of the tradition to wear fun costumes in the race, as long as they’re in good taste. She said years ago, members of Delta Tau Delta, a former Lehigh fraternity, would dress up as pilgrims.
“I️ ran with my best friend both years, and the first time we ran for time and tried to complete it as fast as we could,” Hannah Plaza, ’18, said. “But last year we made it more fun and wore matching outfits and went really slow and stopped at all the fraternities and saw our friends. It was just a really fun time being with her.”
Josephson said a lot of planning and organization goes into the event, including coordinating with Lehigh police and Transportation Services.
“It takes a lot of physical work to run that event,” she said. “It takes an army.”
Participants can make the race as competitive or as relaxed as they like. People are allowed to walk the race, and training and high athleticism is not necessary.
“You don’t have to run it, you can walk it,” Josephson said. “I️ look at an 18-,19- and 20-year-old, and I️ think to myself, ‘I️ walk a treadmill every night for 3 miles, so why can’t an 18-, 19-year-old walk?'”
Josephson said the race brings the campus community together in a positive way.
“People are represented by all the groups on campus,” Plaza said. “You see the running club and fraternities and sororities and all different clubs, and everyone is at the start line everyone getting pumped up, and then you see the entire way up the Hill and everyone is cheering each other on and congratulating each other at the finish line. So it’s just something really fun to do right before the Le-Laf game to bring the campus together.”
Despite the drop in participation in recent years, Josephson said the Turkey Trot is an essential Lehigh tradition.
“We might only have two people running,” she said, “but we have 500 people standing and watching it.”