Briana Whaley of Clearwater took first place in the women’s category of the Wingding 5K race in 2012.
CLEARWATER – Before stuffing bellies full of turkey, cranberries, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, runners and walkers of all ages and skill levels can participate in the annual Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot and sister races.
The race options include the 10K Turkey Trot, the 5K Wingding, the 5K Fun Run, the 1-mile Gobbler and the Clearwater Challenge, which is the 5K, 1-mile and 10K. The races all are on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, and all begin at Keene Road just south of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard except for the 5K Fun Run, and they end in Jack White Stadium at Clearwater High School.
The Wingding begins at 7 a.m. and costs $18 in advance or $23 on race day; the 5K Fun Run begins at 7:30 a.m. and costs $18 in advance or $23 on race day; the 1-mile Gobbler begins at 8:30 a.m. and costs $14 in advance or $15 on race day. The 10K Turkey Trot starts at 8:45 a.m. and costs $18 in advance or $23 on race day, and the Clearwater Challenge begins at 7 a.m. and costs $35 in advance or $40 on race day. Competitors can register online at www.tampabay.com/turkeytrot, or at Fit 2 Run in either St. Petersburg or Tampa.
The cost of registration includes the race, a T-shirt and goodies at the end of the race, said Skip Rogers, race director. People can register early through Friday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m. For a full list of on-site registration locations, see the website. Late registration is available at limited locations through Monday, Nov. 25, at 3 p.m.
Early T-shirt pickup and last-chance registration is available at the following times and locations:
• Monday, Nov. 25 – 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Bright House Networks, Westfield Countryside Mall on the second floor mall entrance near JC Penney, 27001 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater. Online registrants can pick up their race numbers with their confirmation number and/or their T-shirt with race number and T-shirt tag.
• Tuesday, Nov. 26 – 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Fit 2 Run, 256 Second St. N., St. Petersburg. Online registrants can pick up their race numbers with their confirmation number and/or T-shirt with race number and T-shirt tag.
The Turkey Trot Kickoff Party is set for Wednesday, Nov. 27, 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Jack White Stadium at Clearwater High School, 540 S. Hercules Ave. Money needs to be the exact amount in cash or check format. The public is invited to enjoy a fun, free evening that includes live music, games, snacks, and the chance to buy official Turkey Trot merchandise in preparation for race day. Racers also will be able to pick up their T-shirts and race numbers.
“It’s a community event,” Rogers said. “Wednesday night is like Homecoming. We provide free food and drinks, and people come out and sign up for Turkey Trot. We get college kids who come home for the holidays and they meet either at Turkey Trot or the day before. They can meet up with friends who they wouldn’t otherwise have time to see.”
The race began in 1978 at Howard Park in Tarpon Springs and was on a Saturday and run by the YMCA. The director was from Buffalo, N.Y.
“He said, ‘We do it on Thanksgiving morning,’” Rogers said. “We kind of looked at him like he was nuts. But we moved it to Thanksgiving morning and we had 999 people who were at the race. And it’s naturally grown from that. Last year we had a record of 17,678 who ran it.”
The Clearwater Challenge is the newest addition to the race, which was added last year, Rogers said. A number of competitors already were doing it and nicknamed it the “Turk-Can-Do,” he said, and they asked if it could be made official.
“I interviewed a lot of people last year who were doing the challenge, and their interpretation was that it was a challenge,” Rogers said.
Those runners could easily do any one of the races, but doing all three is an extra challenge, especially since there is about a half mile from the finish line back to the start of the course and having to make it back there in time for the next race to begin. So in all, the runners are completing about 11.3 miles.
The proceeds from the race benefit local charities, including the West Florida Y Runners Club Scholarship programs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Pinellas County and the Children’s Heart Foundation. Last year, $48,000 was given out in 24 $2,000 scholarships, and about another $100,000 was given to local charities, Rogers said. People are encouraged to also bring canned goods and nonperishable food items on race day to donate to the RCS Food Bank.
People are encouraged to arrive at least an hour before the race because parking gets tight. Spectators and racers should not stand or walk on neighbors’ yards and instead should use the sidewalks. Competitors should line up according to speed, with the fastest runners at the front, the slowest and walkers in the back. Noncompetitive wheelchair participants should also start at the back of the crowd, and animals, bicycles, wagons, roller blades and skates are not allowed on the course.
There will be one water station in the Wingding and three water stations in the Turkey Trot course. At the end, there will be free refreshments for all registered participants. Medical personnel at a medical tent also will be at the finish line.
The first three male and female finishers in the Wingding and Turkey Trot races in the Open, Master and Grand Master levels will receive trophies. The Master level is for people age 40 and older, and the Grand Master level is for people ages 50 and older. In the Gobbler race, the first-place male and female winners will receive trophies. Additionally, the first 125 male and 125 female finishers in the Wingding and Turkey Trot will receive top finisher awards. People must be present to collect their awards, as they will not be mailed.
“The city of Clearwater is one of the major sponsors, and they’re very supportive of it and very happy,” Rogers said. “As far as demographics, it brings anywhere from 6-month-old kids to 90-year-olds doing it. It’s probably one of the biggest events in Clearwater.”
At his last count, Rogers said there are registered runners from everywhere, including Alaska, Washington, D.C., California, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Canada. He said there were only about eight states that were not represented so far, but there’s still time for more people to register.