More than 1,200 show up for Lawrence Thanksgiving Day tradition

Before carving the turkey later in the day, more than 1,200 people gathered in North Lawrence early Thursday morning to burn a few calories.

In what has become something of a holiday tradition in Lawrence, hundreds of people, several sporting turkey hats, showed up to Woodlawn Elementary School for the runLawrence Thanksgiving Day 5K. Temperatures were hovering around the 20s so participants, who ranged in age from 10 to 80, were thankful to get their official race mittens.

The event has increased in popularity ever since it debuted 10 years ago, when there were only 100 runners.

“I think it’s largely so they don’t feel so guilty about eating later in the day,” said race Director Dee Boeck. “And it’s something the whole family can participate in. Visiting relatives from out of town participate and have made this a tradition.”

Roy Wedge was first to cross the finish line at just over 16 minutes. The 21-year-old student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (where he runs cross country) was in town for the holiday, taking part in the 5K for the second time.

“It’s kind of cool today, but it at least it wasn’t windy,” remarked a barely-out-of-breath Wedge, who said the best part of the race is reuniting with high school classmates. “It’s fun seeing a lot of people from cross country.”

A couple minutes later, Emily Venters finished as the first-place female. The 14-year-old runs cross country at Lawrence’s Free State High School.

“I just tried to go under 19 minutes so I kept watching my watch,” said Venters, who was red-faced and trying to catch her breath. “It felt pretty good out there — I’m just cold in my hands.”

The Thanksgiving day run is the local nonprofit running club’s big event for the year. Proceeds go to several youth running programs, including local elementary school marathon clubs and cross country programs in Eudora and Lawrence.