The great outdoors a lure for many Sacramentans this holiday weekend

Sure there are temptations aplenty to stay inside on Thanksgiving: A day off work. A feast of morning-to-night football and basketball games. Big-screen TVs available for rock-bottom prices. Recuperation from overindulgence.

But many Sacramentans headed outside, nonetheless, choosing exercise over couch-sitting and doorbusters. Or at least making room for the outdoors in their holiday schedule.

Camping and sporting goods retailer REI made a point this year of announcing it would stay closed on Black Friday, encouraging its customers to put off shopping and enjoy the outdoors.

Conservation group Save the Redwoods League joined in, offering free Black Friday passes to 49 redwood parks throughout California. As of Thursday, it had nearly run out of the 5,000 passes it had reserved, according to the league’s website. (You can still pay to visit.)

Locally, the lure of birdwatching and photography tugged Wilton resident David Anderson out of bed Thursday morning while his family was still asleep. He packed up his Canon and zoom lens and drove 25 minutes to the Cosumnes River Preserve near Galt “to capture anything that’s worth printing,” he said.

“I thought I’d try coming out today,” Anderson said, “because it can get really busy out here” through the weekend.

About 15 minutes north of the river preserve, runners gathered at 8 a.m. for the seventh annual Elk Grove Turkey Trot. More than 2,000 people registered, spokeswoman Stephanie Midthun said, and nearly half that many cheered them on. The 5K/10K runs raised money for Courage House, a nonprofit that provides shelter for children rescued from sex trafficking.

Thanksgiving has become the most popular holiday for recreational distance running nationwide, according to Running USA, and the number of Sacramento-area registrations ranks at or near the top in the country each year.

Turkey Trot announcer Charlee Simons said he thinks the enthusiasm for Thanksgiving Day runs reflects the region’s embrace of exercise and “tells me that the day has become more than expressing thanks; it’s also a chance to give and get outside.”

Meanwhile, about 60 basketball players converged on Roosevelt Park in downtown Sacramento on Thursday morning, with another 60 or so playing flag football on a field not far from the courts.

Despite the 38-degree chill, Gabe Garcia, who drove up from Modesto to visit family, was drenched with sweat from playing basketball for an hour. “I just wanted to get out and get some exercise” ahead of the big family meal planned for later in the day, he said.

It came at a price: Garcia lost every game of one-on-one.

Undaunted, he said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.”