WATERTOWN — As snowflakes began to dance through the air Thursday morning, hundreds of north country residents braved the elements to run before heading home to their Thanksgiving feasts.
From 7 to 8:30 a.m., steady streams of participants flocked to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Outer Ives St. for the Watertown Family YMCA’s annual Turkey Run, excitement in the air.
Denise K. Young, CEO of the YMCA, stood in the church’s doorway greeting everyone with a smile and wishing them a happy Thanksgiving before directing them to their lines.
“It’s a great family tradition and we’re just thrilled to see people come out and make this a part of their holiday every year,” she said. “The Y is just proud to sponsor it and have people out here.”
After registration had been completed and the last runners and walkers were ready, the horn blasted at 9 a.m. sharp, kicking off both the 5k run and the 2.2 mile run/walk.
Some participants leaned into the holiday spirit and outfitted themselves with various forms of turkey hats and outfits, while others opted to wear the event t-shirts, which proudly displayed Widrick Auto Sales on the back- the event’s sponsor for over 15 years.
“We’re grateful to Widrick because they sponsor it every year and the people come out, they bring their kids, their families, their grandparents, everybody goes together and it’s just a wonderful event,” Mrs. Young said.
This year, instead of separate starting and finishing areas, the inflatable orange arch marked as the finish line served as the starting point as well.
Tables with fruit, water and granola bars were set up outside for participants to enjoy after they had completed their chosen courses.
Steve Rowell, chief program officer at the YMCA, said the event has been continuing year after year for over 30 years, and he himself has been involved for 15 plus years.
“This race has been as high as 1,500 participants, the weather certainly does have an impact and I think we’re also seeing a lot of these Turkey Runs in smaller communities, so the number of people is still the same running, they’re just out in our neighboring communities as well,” Mr. Rowell said.
Once the last of the approximately 500 participants had crossed the finish line Thursday, following the course marked out in orange with volunteers at each street corner, prizes were given out to the fastest runners as well as the largest team.
Awards were given for overall fastest time for both men and women, as well as the top runners in each age range, from 1 to 79.
With a time of 19 minutes and 17 seconds, James Brady, 52, of Carthage, took the top spot in the male category, with Maria Ricalton, 22, of Canton taking the top female spot with a time of 19 minutes and 51 seconds.
With times ranging from 23 and a half minutes to nearly 35, Annabelle Renzi, 10, Anna Payne, 10, Zeke Hagen, 9, Charlie Maurer, 8, and Owen Briggs, 9, were the fastest in their 1-10 age groups.
“We hope to see everybody getting out and getting a healthy start to their day with a little physical activity, to see friends and family reunite that haven’t seen each other in a few months,” he said. “We hope that everybody has a nice time despite the chilly weather we’re experiencing this morning.”