Shrugging off soggy weather, Turkey Trot crowd returns downtown after pandemic break
A misting rain was falling at daybreak and there were fewer walkers or runners gathered at the starting line than in an average year.
But none of that seemed to matter Thursday morning. What did matter was that the 28th annual Turkey Trot, a tradition for many families in the Ozarks, was back in person.
"This is one of the biggest events of the year for the park board. It is so great to have it back live in person finally but after 28 years, it also one of Springfield's favorite events," said Bob Belote, director of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, who welcomed the runners and walkers. "When we started Turkey Trot back in 1995, who would have thought it would become the Springfield Thanksgiving tradition."
In all, 4,437 signed up for the 5K run and walk Thursday, which started at the corner of St. Louis Street and John Q. Hammons Parkway.
There were couples and families running in tandem. Parents pushed strollers. There were dogs and costumes.
The fees participants pay to join Springfield's largest times 5K race — the largest Thanksgiving Day 5K in Missouri — benefit the Developmental Center of the Ozarks and the park board's Youth Recreation Scholarship Fund. The event is also a food drive for the Ozarks Food Harvest.
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Before the pandemic, an average of 7,000 participated each year. The 5K was virtual for the past two years.
Despite the soggy forecast, Deborah Abel, veteran of a few Turkey Trots, hoped the rain would hold off. She did not do the virtual route in 2020 and 2021 and was happy the race was once again in person.
She signed up, the first time, after other runners said it was fun. "I was running at the time. Now, I'm a walker."
Abel planned to walk with her standard poodle, family members and their dogs. "We have matching dog blankets."
She admitted the timing of the 5K was "a little crazy" because she was hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year. "It makes dinner — dinner is at my house — that much harder but I wouldn't miss it."
Darla Upchurch, of Fair Grove, said she started running the Turkey Trot after moving to the area in 2016.
"We do it every year," she said. During the pandemic, when the race was not in person, Upchurch did the virtual option with her family.
"It was super fun," she said. "We drove through and got our t-shirts and my husband and I and whoever was in for Thanksgiving, our friends, we took them to a local trail and did our three miles out there."
Upchurch said she missed running with thousands of others. In a typical year, when it's not raining, she dons a feather costume.
"We eat a lot on Thanksgiving so we want to run a little bit beforehand," Upchurch said. "Everybody is out here for Thanksgiving, just to have fun. It is way less competitive than other races."
Mother Allie Davis and daughter Audrey Davis, a senior at Nixa High School, signed up to run together. They have participated periodically over the years.
"I remember doing this a lot when I was little," Audrey Davis said.
"Truly we do this as a community event. It just feels like a really fun way to be a part of the community," Allie Davis said.
Allie Davis said it's a fantastic way to start the holiday. "It kicks off everything that we do for the weekend and makes us feel a little guilt-free, I guess, about eating so much turkey."
First-time participant Joanna Mendez ran with sons Julian, 7, and Danell, 10, of Ozark. The boys said they signed up to have fun and be together.
Their mother hopes the Turkey Trot becomes part of their annual tradition.
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"I like running. I run races often and this is the first time they are going to run with me," Joanna Mendez said. After the race, she said they planned to go to "grandma's house to eat."
Here are a list of the award winners:Overall Female: Rebecca Senn, age 31, at 18:55. Senn was also the Overall Female winner in 2019 (19:37) and 2017 (18:49).Overall Male: Daniel Anderson, age 28, of Washington D.C., at 15:18.Masters (40+) Female: Kristen Hall, age 41, at 21:20.Masters (40+) Male: Toby Dogwiler, age 48, at 17:22. Dogwiler was also the Masters Male winner in 2019 (18:09).Grand Masters (60+) Female: Liz Kyger, age 63, at 23:07. Kyger also won Masters Female in 2016 (21:05) and 2014 (21:07).Grand Masters (60+) Male: Eric Sells, age 61, at 21:51.