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Thousands gather for city’s holiday run

Jennifer Sprouse • Nov 22, 2012 at 3:51 PM

Thursday’s chilly morning air would make it hard for anyone to get out of bed, especially if they had to run a race.

But, around 7 a.m. on the corner of Legion Street and East State of Franklin Road, the race music clicked on and daylight was barely breaking through the trees, as families, couples, friends and individuals drove in and hopped out of their vehicles to join the rest of the city participants and out-of-town guests in the 7th Annual Johnson City/Up & At ‘Em Turkey Trot, a 5K road race and family fitness walk.

While some runners and walkers were in traditional athletic gear and Turkey Trot T-shirts past and present, others were showing their fun, holiday spirit with turkey shaped running hats, bright colors and pieces of costumes.

Andrea Keesecker, a University of Tennessee student and native of Johnson City, along with her mother and two sisters, were just some of the participants who chose to dress up for the race.

“My sister informed me that everyone does this, everyone dresses up, so we decided to make headpieces,” she said. “This is our first year (participating in the Turkey Trot), but ... I’ve been playing sports in college and I just thought it would be a good chance to get my family active on Thanksgiving morning, maybe inspire them to work on their fitness levels in the new year.”

Keesecker said while she’s never done an official 5K, she was excited to be there with her sisters and her mom while on break from school, as she ran into some old friends.

“I’ve already seen a couple here, so that’s been nice,” she said. “There’s a lot of people around. There’s a lot of dogs, lots of babies. I’m excited.”

Jenny Brock, event chairwoman, said there was another record-breaking amount of entries this year.

“Last night we registered 4,144 entries to the Turkey Trot, so it is obviously our biggest ever,” Brock said.

She said with more than 130 volunteers, the event has turned into one big get-together for families and their friends.

“It’s very festive and families are kind of having reunions and friends are running into friends. It’s a social gathering as well as a little competitive race, so it’s just the community coming together,” Brock said. “The hope is just that families will continue to find activities like this to do together.”

A Wheel Chair Division was added to this year’s event, allowing participants operating a hand cycle, push-rim wheelchair or a day chair to race.

Fain Grogg, an active wheelchair racer, said he, as well as Bryan Pearson of Jonesborough and Shane Bare of Roan Mountain, were excited to compete in the new division.

Their division led off the race a few minutes before the 8:30 a.m. start for others on foot.

Grogg was the first in his division to finish, winning with a time of 14:52.

He said it’s been a dream of his and others to create and provide more wheelchair accessible opportunities in Johnson City.

“It would be great to see it (the wheelchair division) .... improve to a larger number the next few years,” he said. “I think the biggest thing we’re trying to do is we’re promoting diversity in our community, that acceptance among everybody and that ... we’re not only thankful for what God’s given us, but we’re also thankful for the abilities that we still do have.”

Approaching the 16-minute mark, event coordinators and volunteers were hearing over their walkie-talkies that one runner was making his way to the finish line.

Peter Dalton of Bristol finished the race at 16:00.4 minutes, making him the 2012 overall male winner of the Turkey Trot.

Dalton, originally from Ireland, said it was good race Thursday morning, but a little cold.

“The first mile was a bit of a warm-up and then we kind of got going,” he said. “It’s a good event. It keeps getting bigger and bigger. This is my first one of these (Turkey Trots), because usually I’m busy with other stuff, but hopefully it won’t be my last.”

All of the participants in Thursday’s Turkey Trot event were given medallions for finishing the race, as well as individual awards given at the race’s conclusion.

For race results, visit www.jcturkeytrot.org.

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