John Wile directed the inaugural Turkey Trot at Maudslay State Park in 1989 with a skeleton crew of volunteers. The race drew 65 runners, each of whom crossed the finish line to find a volunteer handing out popsicle sticks to record the order of finish.
Wile will direct the 25th annual Maudslay Turkey Trot Thursday. Since the race’s inception, it has grown into a chip-timed event for more than 1,500 runners. It has also spawned another race at Pipestave Hill in West Newbury, the Winner’s Circle Running Club Wild Turkey Trot, which draws 500 runners of its own.
“That first year, it was pretty cold out,” Wile said. “We had the old printer and popsicle sticks, and we put the sticks on a tree to post results. Initially, it was a benefit race, and I picked something out of thin air — the Newburyport Boosters. I gave them $200, which is the amount we raised minus expenses.”
Wile’s Turkey Trot races have raised more than $200,000 for local charities over the last 25 years. The proceeds from this year’s race will go to the Pettengill House, Our Neighbor’s Table, Opportunity Works, Maudslay Trust, Newburyport Enrichment Fund and Salvation Army.
Wile, a longtime member of Winner’s Circle Running Club, started Joppa Flats Running Club in 2011 along with a few other former WCRC members. The self-proclaimed founding fathers, who also include Bob Manning, John Leary, John Gangemi, Mike Fiene, Gary Passler and Eric Grelle, started the club in hopes of designating more money from races like the Turkey Trot to charities.
“The premise of the race was to donate all of our money after expenses to local charities,” Wile said. “People can get out, get a little exercise, say hi to people who are home for the holidays, and they know that charity is the essence.”