Runners brave cold for annual Turkey Trot races


Local runners, including Reagan Rice, dressed as a turkey, participate in the third annual 10K Turkey Trot and 2 Mile Fun Run in which proceeds support the residents of Tacachale Developmental Disability Center on Thursday.

Erica Brough/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.

Early Thanksgiving morning, runners donned leggings and fleece jackets and rubbed their hands together to keep warm as they waited in the cold to kick off their holiday with the 10K Turkey Trot and 2-Mile Fun Run.

The annual event was held at Tacachale, a large state-run community in Gainesville for people with developmental disabilities, and was hosted by Lloyd Clarke Sports.

Some runners wore tracksuits to insulate them from the early-morning chill, while others stuck with shorts but added leggings or knee socks to their race-day wardrobes and tugged skullcaps snugly over their ears.

It wasn’t just 25-year-old Nicole Bounds’ first Turkey Trot, but her first-ever race. She came to do the 10K, a 6.2-mile run through the Tacachale campus, which is dotted with sun-dappled fields, brick buildings and plenty of trees.

As she headed toward the starting line, her nervousness surprised her.

“I didn’t think I was going to be, but now that I’m walking up there, the butterflies are kicking up a little bit,” she said.

Why run her first race on Thanksgiving?

“So I don’t feel guilty later when I have a whole bunch of food,” she said.

About 850 runners turned out to burn off calories before heading home to consume turkey and pumpkin pie.

Bobby Burk, general manager of Lloyd Clarke Sports, said usually at least twice as many runners sign up for the 10K as the fun run. About half the proceeds from the event will go to Tacachale, he said.

Turkey trots are popular all over the place, not just in Gainesville, according to Burk.

“It’s all over the country and really, really big,” he said. “This one’s kind of in its infancy.”

Holli Rutledge, 49, and Patty Plessner, 62, both work at Tacachale and turned out Thursday for the 10K race. It was Rutledge’s third Turkey Trot and Plessner’s fifth.

Plessner, who recently finished a half-marathon, said they used to do a race at Tacachale a while back, so she brought up the idea of starting the Turkey Trot.

“So I planted the seed, and here it is,” she said as she walked toward the starting line. “That first year, there was a lot of people. I couldn’t believe it.”

The 10K race began at 8:30 a.m.; the fun run started about 15 minutes later.

Just before the first race, some runners jogged in place near the starting line while a few braced their hands against tree trunks for support as they stretched.

Some stripped off their jackets while others kept their layers and mittens. A couple men even braved the race shirtless, although they didn’t inspire any of the other guys to do the same.

A loud ‘pop’ signaled the start of the race. Most of the 10K-ers got off to a slow start as they navigated through the bottleneck of runners until the crowd thinned out.

Dawn Morton, 42, sporting a stuffed hat that looked like a cooked turkey, and her children Shauna and Spencer, stepped closer to the starting line after the 10K runners cleared out.

This was the trio’s third time running in the event together. It has become their tradition, said Shauna, 10, clad in pink running gear.

Her younger brother Spencer had dressed warmly, and had tucked a swath of camouflage cloth around the lower half of his face, calling it his bandit costume.

“My fingertips are freezing,” he said.

His father, Rob, who said he was the family photographer, joked that Spencer was the hunter and his wife was the turkey, given her choice of hat. Dawn joined in, calling their pink-clad daughter the cranberry sauce.

When a second ‘pop’ marked the start of the fun run, Dawn and her children took off down the road. Meanwhile, Rob and the rest of the spectators headed toward the finish line to meet the runners when they crossed.

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