PARKERSBURG - The 2013 running of the Turkey Trot, the pre-Thanksgiving Day dinner tradition in the Mid-Ohio Valley and one of the largest races in the region, broke records Thursday, officials said.
"Not only is this the largest number of participants we have ever had, but our first-place woman broke the previous record," said event organizer Joe Corra.
Madison Hill finished the 5-kilometer race in 17 minutes, 48 seconds, more than a minute following the first-place man, Breydon Gates of Belpre, who finished in 15 minutes, 11 seconds.
Corra said this was the largest number of participants in the more-than-three-decades-old race with 3,122 people runners or walkers through the 3-mile race. Many of those who had decided to partner with a dog or push a stroller were going strong through the course an hour after the race began.
Although this year's participation was high, Corra said he believes the cold temperatures and slightly icy conditions kept some people away.
At around 9 a.m., when the gun started the race, the temperature was 23 with 7 mph winds, which would have made it feel cooler, according to the National Weather Service in Charleston.
Top Turkey Trotters
Top Three Men
1. Breydon Gates - 15:11
2. Mitchell Gross - 15:26
3. Eric Martin - 15:34
Top Three Women
1. Madison Hill - 17:48
2. Jenny Brewer - 18:32
3. Taylor Varnadoe - 19:44
"With snow on the ground, too, it helps keep temperatures lower and puts people in the mindset that it is cold," said Tim Axford, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston.
To combat the chill, many people at the start line were bundled in more than one layer of clothing with hats and gloves on while others wore as little as possible, which included shorts, shoes and a tank top, to keep their time down. Winner Gates was one of those who cared little for the cold.
Corra had said the River City Runners and Walkers Club, which sponsors the race with On the Run and Walk and Camden Clark Medical Center, had expected to break the 3,000 mark knowing families and entire sports teams sign up to run the race together every year.
"We prepared for 3,700 people," Corra said. "But, really, I don't know if the race course could handle many more people."
Teresa Enos of Davisville chose to participate in this year's race for the first time, having joined the River City Runners and Walkers Club in September for their "Couch to 5K" program.
"Really, it was so crowded out there I started to feel claustrophobic," she said of the group of participants. "It was crazy."
Either way, Enos finished her first race in more than a decade at 40 minutes.
Corra added that since the River City Runners has taken over the organization of the race seven years ago, it has grown by four times.
"We haven't done anything to advertise it," Corra said. "People just come."
Participants this year were from more than 30 states, including California, Missouri, Wisconsin and Florida as well as one racer from England.
During the event, Grace Brethren Church in south Parkersburg served coffee and hot chocolate, while FaithLink collected shoes and the Humane Society of Parkersburg had dogs available for adoption present at the event.
Dressed turkeys were awarded to the first male and female to cross the finish line. After the race, a drawing was held for 50 free turkeys and prizes.
The race begins and ends on the track between the City Park Pond and the baseball field and includes a loop up Washington Avenue and back for a total course length of three miles.
The Turkey Trot was started in 1979 by the same group that two years later was the founding members of the River City Runners Club. While most of the runners wear traditional clothing, for the past several years the race also has attracted a few who, in addition to running, arrive for the race in costume, mostly turkey hats.