Western & Southern: Thanksgiving on the Run

Cincinnati's Historic Holiday Race a Fun & Philanthropic Pacesetter
Western & Southern: Thanksgiving on the Run
Photography provided by Western & Southern Financial Group

For more than a century, Cincinnati’s Thanksgiving Day Race has been a celebrated event, and Western & Southern Financial Group has proudly served as its title sponsor for the past decade.

“When the Thanksgiving Day Race organizers approached us to fill in as the title sponsor, we knew what we had to do,” recalls John Barrett, Chairman, President and CEO of Western & Southern. “How could we say no to a time-honored tradition designed to bring people together, celebrate health, wellness and togetherness, and support other organizations that serve our community?” 

Proceeds from this year’s race will benefit several local charities, including Girls on the Run, Alzheimer’s Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and the Barrett Cancer Center at UC.

“I often say that doing good for others is just part of what we do,” says Barrett. “I have witnessed this simple but recurring theme throughout Western & Southern’s history. When the people in our community succeed, living happy and healthy lives here, our entire community succeeds.

“This idea motivates us to do all that we can to support our community – whether it’s through sponsorships of events and programs, investing in community development projects, or giving our time and talents.”

An Exhilarating Experience

In addition to the traditional 10k race, this year’s Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day Race will include a 5K run/walk sponsored by TQL. 

“Participants will fall in love with each step of the race,” says Julie Isphording, Race Director, Olympian and accomplished long-distance runner. “The 10K course winds through historic Cincinnati neighborhoods like the West End, Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton and includes scenic views along the Ohio River.”

Isphording promises an exhilarating final leg of the race as runners enter the TQL Stadium tunnel, cross the finishline and emerge triumphantly onto the FC Cincinnati playing field.

The first Thanksgiving Day Race, which has the distinction of being the Midwest’s oldest footrace, originally started at Fort Thomas Gym and ended at the downtown Cincinnati YMCA. 

“With a start date of 1908, the Thanksgiving Day Race is the sixth oldest race in America according to Runner’s World Magazine,” says Isphording. “Eighteen of the 21 runners who entered that first race finished the seven-mile course, led by Lovell Draper of Cincinnati, who completed the distance in 37 minutes and 15 seconds — about three minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.”

Today, the race is an integral part of the holiday season for the thousands who run or walk it annually with their family and friends, Isphording continues. “From its modest beginning of 21 runners, the race has grown steadily, peaking at 17,567 at the 100th anniversary run in 2009.”

She points to another significant achievement: The Thanksgiving Day Race has evolved from predominantly male participation to a nearly equal gender representation. According to Isphording, some of the credit goes to Secret®, the leading women’s deodorant/antiperspirant brand. In 2018, Secret began giving charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations that empower and inspire women in sports. 

To the more than 15,000 participants expected to join in this year’s Thanksgiving Day Race fun, Isphording offers the following goodhearted advice:

“Start practicing your finish-line pose, and don’t forget that smile,” she says. “The best runner in the world is the one who is having the most fun!”

To learn more about Western & Southern’s community involvement, visit westernsouthern.com/corporateresponsibility.

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