Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. Her email is, and you can follow her on twitter (@jodiheckel).

Starting Line Turkey Trot

The Turkey Trot at Crystal Lake Park has been a popular Thanksgiving Day tradition for over 50 years.

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The weather is colder and the days are shorter, but there are still plenty of opportunities to get some outdoor exercise. And it’s likely it will make you feel better about winter to get outside and get moving.

Here are a few suggestions for getting active in the next few weeks:

Turkey Trot

This is a Thanksgiving Day tradition for many residents. The Urbana Park District’s 52nd annual Turkey Trot starts at 9 a.m. on Nov. 28 — that’s Thanksgiving, of course — in Crystal Lake Park. The Turkey Trot is a free 1-mile fun run/walk, followed by a prize raffle. The park district will accept donations for its scholarship fund for free or reduced-price summer camp registrations for children in need.

You can find more information at

Turkey Burner Ride

If shopping isn’t your thing, spend Black Friday being active. Champaign Cycle will host its Turkey Burner Ride on Friday, Nov. 29. Cyclists should gather at 2 p.m. at Champaign Cycle, 506 S. Country Fair Drive, C. The social ride will be 1 to 2 hours at a slow pace around town, with a stop at Art Mart in Champaign. This is the fifth year for the cycle shop’s day-after-Thanksgiving ride.

Find the Facebook page for the event at

Turkey Skate

If you’d rather be on skates than wheels, the University of Illinois Ice Arena is hosting its Turkey Skate from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29. Here is the information page from UI Campus Recreation:

CU Santa Rampage

This holiday-themed winter ride starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at 25 O’Clock Brewing, 208 W. Griggs St., U., and includes stops for beverages at several other locations. Cyclists will ride to Fiesta Cafe, 216 S. First St., C.; La Mixteca, 510 N. Cunningham Ave., U.; and end at Riggs Brewery, 1901 S. High Cross Road, U. Santa attire is encouraged.

The ride is free, but participants are asked to register at Event Brite at In lieu of a registration fee, participants are asked to donate to Toys for Tots. The ride organizers will be identifying dropoff locations for toys.

NCAA cross-country Championships.

One of my favorite fall running events is the NCAA cross-country Championships. For many years, its home was the LaVern Gibson course in Terre Haute, Ind. — a very spectator-friendly venue.

This year’s national championship meet is Saturday, and I’m looking forward to watching it in person. It’s particularly exciting because the University of Illinois women’s team will be there after winning the Midwest Regional meet this past Friday in Stillwater, Okla.

The UI women are ranked 22nd nationally, and four of the team’ runners — juniors Allison McGrath and Rebecca Craddock, and sophomores Madison Marasco and Emma Milburn — finished in the top 25 at the Midwest Regional meet. It’s the first time the UI women’s team has qualified for the championship meet since 2009, when I saw Illini Angela Bizzarri win the championship meet.

I’ve been to the championship meet a half dozen times, and the tradition is to run the course with friends before the start of the races. We watch the start of each race and then run to different spots around the course to watch as the competitors race past.

Indiana State hosted the national championship meet for eight consecutive years from 2004 to 2011. In the last several years, though, the Division I championship meet has been rotating among locations. Oklahoma State and Florida State will host the next two years, so if you want to see the best college cross-country runners — including the Illini — race less than two hours from Champaign-Urbana, head to Terre Haute on Saturday. You can find information about the meet at

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. Her email is, and you can follow her on  twitter (@jodiheckel).

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