Several thousand getting ready to earn their turkey in Johnson City race

Tony Casey • Nov 18, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Eight years ago, the Up & At ’Em Turkey Trot expected around 100 runners for its inaugural race. It ended up with more than seven times that amount and the popularity of the Thanksgiving morning race has increased every year since.

Race Co-Chair Jenny Brock, a city commissioner and one of the founders of the event, remembers having the conversation to try to get locals to come out and be active and brought up the idea of a turkey trot, wondering if it would ever catch on.

Catch on? It sure did. This year, the USATF-certified 5K race, slated for Thanksgiving morning at 8:30, is looking at a field of more than 4,500, and shows no sign of slowing in growth.

“For the size of our town, it’s special,” Brock said. “It shows how well our community comes together.”

Brock said it’s become so big that she hasn’t had to pick up the phone to call potential sponsors; they’ve all contacted her because of the race’s popularity. She said the only complaint about the race is the music carrying through neighborhoods adjacent to the start and finish lines, but says they will try to be mindful of that, and promise to be cautious of the noise.

Because of how the city noise ordinance is written, city events are exempt from keeping the volume down.

The course is nearly identical to 2012’s, with the only slight change occurring in the last few hundred meters of the race. Once the gun goes off, it begins for walkers and runners as it did last year, at the Legion Street intersection with East State of Franklin Road, goes down State of Franklin Road until it turns into the Tree Streets, where it turns back near South Side Elementary School and brings the field back toward South Roan Street. After crossing Roan, the race goes on East Maple until Alabama, where runners will run back down Legion Street and into the finish at Cardinal Park.

This race offers something for everyone, Brock said. She said it has a fast competitive race up front, a big race feel, and a chance for walkers to participate, too.

Last year’s victor was Peter Dalton, who ripped through the course in 16 minutes and one second, with Carrie Campbell taking the women’s race in 19:26. Michael Mansy set the men’s course record with a 15:33 finish in 2010, and Catherine Layne holds the women’s course record. She clocked 17:20 in the 2009 race.

For the second-straight year, the event will feature a wheelchair division, and the 5K walk is stroller and dog-friendly, letting well-behaved dogs on leashes start toward the back of the pack. Race directors have beefed up security at the race and have increased the number of available emergency service personnel.

Brock said just about her entire family works the race, and it usually takes the cake as the most-talked about topic during the rest of the day. Brock said she’s looking forward to her special vantage point for the beginning of the race.

“I’ll be up in the bucket truck to watch the sea of people on the starting line,” Brock said. “It gets me smiling on the inside.”

Anyone interested in registering for the race should go to www.jcturkeytrot.org and register before Friday, which will land them with the cheapest entry fee and guarantee a long-sleeve race shirt. There is no day-of registration and all other information and updates can be found at the JC Turkey Trot 5K Facebook page.

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