By Patrick Shelby - Daily Sun News (with permission)
SUNNYSIDE — Fueled by a festive appetite to roll out of bed early on a holiday morning, runners, joggers and walkers tightened up their sweat pant drawstrings and slipped on fashionable workout attire in celebratory fashion for the inaugural Turkey Trot 5K run and fundraiser at the Sunnyside Christian Reformed Church on Thursday.
Hosted by the recently opened Sunnyside Christian Childcare, about 130 participants signed up to hit the ground running for the 8:30 a.m. event. Registration fees will be used to help fund center programs and upcoming day camps.
“With Melissa Stamschror’s family, and my family, I knew we would be able to get 30,” Childcare center employee Alyssa Struikmans chuckled. “And, we’re at 130. So, that’s amazing!”
In order to wake up on Thanksgiving to the kitchen aromas inspired by a medley of home cooking tradition, there were contestants who endured heavy eastbound traffic delays on Wednesday. Due to severe weather and hazardous road conditions through mountain passes, they registered at the morning run.
The idea for a Thanksgiving 5K run, along with the community event aspect, was the winning combination that inspired Struikmans to become actively involved in assisting with the program. “This is a huge thing that a lot of cities do, and Sunnyside doesn’t have this, until now.”
Cash prizes of $100, 75 and 50 were awarded to both men and women’s division for first, second and third place. Youth, 12 and under, received $25, 15 and 10. Childcare kids made medallions for all Top 3 finishers.
During the event’s warm up session, where participants stretched out their legs to the aerobic tunes of the “Cha-Cha Slide” and “Cupid Shuffle” played by Ernie Lara, Jr. of Big Ern Productions. A hand-sized trophy was presented for the “Best Dressed” Turkey Trotter.
Prior to the mass line up at the starting line, where competitive runners would be able to embark upon the course without any fowl of obstruction, a group prayer was delivered to unite the contestants with spirited words to thankfully celebrate the day.
As participants prepared to take their marks, spectator Mary Werkhoven was asked, “Do you know what the runners are racing for?”
“A front row seat at the Thanksgiving 10 a.m. service,” Werkhoven, in stride, replied.
Val Mendoza was the first runner to finish the inaugural event with a record setting time of 18:24. The winded athlete explained that he had been training for two weeks prior to the run.
“Feels great to be a part of this run and bring home a medal,” said Mendoza.
The prestigious hardware was presented to the winners by the Miss Sunnyside Court after race times were officially logged in as competitors crossed the finish line.
Mendoza confessed that he was planning to celebrate the victory with an extra serving of turkey later, after he ran back out onto the course for another 5K helping.
Hudson Grossmann, 12, of Gig Harbor edged out his dad, and outdistanced his older brother Bodie, with a strong kick at the end and finished first in the youth division. Grossmann said he planned to wear his first-place medal throughout the day.
The inaugural Turkey Trot 5K run ended at 9:21 a.m. with all participants who had started, finishing the event in holiday style.
Before they could catch their breath or take a drink of water, contestants posed for photos with family and friends in celebrating the holiday morning of accomplishment together.
As the official time keeper and one of the event organizers, Struikmans declared it was time to let loose the waistband and enjoy the day.
“We’re going to eat, be all together and we’re going to be thankful!”