More than 200 runners showed up at Norwood Hodges Community Center at 8 a.m. Thursday – long before the late night shopping, football and turkey carving – to start their holiday off with a brisk, cool 6-mile run in the Plucked Turkey 10K road race.
The event, held by the Anniston Runners Club and the Calhoun County YMCA, is low-key by design, said Maggie Burn Owen, director of operations at the YMCA. She said the event started off as a small group of runners who got together every Thanksgiving to run the course, before someone got the idea to turn it into a road race.
Keeping true to its humble origins, the race is small, and offers only a handful of door prizes with awards only for the first three finishers, male and female. The fastest man and woman in the race each get a turkey breast. Second- and third-place finishers get a pie.
“The people just come out here for the fun of it,” she said.
The prizes might not have been lavish, but that hasn’t stopped Megan Williams from making the Plucked Turkey an annual tradition. The first overall female finisher said she comes from Tuscaloosa every year to try and win the turkey.
“My parents make me a turkey, and then I get to keep this one,” she said after the race. “It’s kind of become a tradition.”
But what makes the other 200-plus runners, who go home empty-handed, but keep coming back every Thanksgiving?
“Runners are always looking for something to do, a training run, or a race,” said race coordinator Paula Roberson. “Even if it is Thanksgiving.”
David Long, an Oxford resident running the race for his second time, said runners tend to be “a little off,” and waking up early on a day off to run a hilly 10 kilometers just backs up that theory.
Asked why he was running, Long said he wasn't really sure.
“Half crazy, half way to get me up and give me something to do, I guess,” he said.
“It’s what I enjoy doing, it’s what drives me,” said Wayne Neilson, a runner from Fort Worth, Texas. “You got to get up early and do something. It’s either this or cook turkey.”
Andy and Glenna Gillentine, a couple from Columbia, S.C. who were visiting family in the area, said the race fit perfectly with their training to do a half-marathon.
And, it didn’t hurt that it burned a few calories too.
“I can eat whatever I want later and not feel guilty about it,” Glenna Gilentine said. “That’s the real reason.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.