33 years and running, T-Day 5K tradition lives on | PostIndependent.com

33 years and running, T-Day 5K tradition lives on

Runners make their way along the snowy fairways of the Glenwood Springs Golf Course during the 2016 Turkey Day 5K. The 33rd installment on Thursday could see similar conditions.
Post Independent file

Sitting in the clubhouse of the Glenwood Springs Golf Course on Thanksgiving morning in the year 1988, co-race directors Jim Richmond, Karen Greenwood and Greg Gortsema peered out the misting windows at the dawning of a bleak morning that carried with it the uncertainty of an approaching winter storm.

It was year number three of the fledgling Turkey Day 5K run, and race organizers were wondering out loud if anyone would brave the conditions to toe the starting line.

“We weren’t really sure if anyone would come,” Richmond said. “It wasn’t what you would call an ideal day to go for a run.”

By the time the starting clock approached 10 a.m., there was a 5-inch, fluffy white blanket of snow covering the fairways on “The Hill.” The sky was slate-gray and the temperature hovered just above the freezing mark.

Things did not look good for the race, which had drawn 17 runners in its inaugural year with Bob Willey and Linda Young being crowned champions, and 36 participants in year number two.

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Despite the gloomy morning, a brightly colored rainbow presented itself to Richmond and his crew as 55 hardy souls — a new record field — showed up to slip and slide their way along the scenic course, with everyone eventually making it to the finish line without any spills or mishaps.

This Thanksgiving Thursday morning at 10 a.m., once again, the Turkey Day 5K, which now annually attracts upwards of 500 Thanksgiving revelers, will turn 33 years old.

Richmond points to the picturesque location and the continued simplicity of the race as a big reason for its longevity and success.

“For many years of the race the entry fee was just $5. We never had any T-shirts or age-group awards or anything real fancy. It’s always been a community-first type of event with good people and plenty of good food,” Richmond said. “It’s a race that shines, but not too bright.”

The Turkey Day 5K started out in 1986 as a loosely formed running get-together, cobbled together at the spur of the moment by a couple of local running buddies.

Through the years, proceeds from the race have been distributed to the Glenwood Elementary School library, the Garfield County Public Library and the Carbondale Community School. In the last six years, with Glenwood High School swim coach Steve Vanderhoof taking the reins as race director, the popular 5K has been a fundraiser for Vanderhoof’s boys and girls swim teams, as well as the GSHS cross country running teams.

And yes, there is plenty of good food on hand at the golf course clubhouse following the completion of the run. Doug Meyers and Mike Moser oversee the deep-frying of several turkeys that serve as the main course for the buffet-style layout that greets hungry — and thirsty — runners and walkers.

Each year, the race attracts one of the more formidable fields of competitive runners on the Western Slope of Colorado, but the main focus of the day remains a community celebration and a reunion of old friends who get together to do some catching up and get a little exercise.

Pre-registration can still be had for $15 via any member of the GSHS swim or cross country team. Otherwise, registration is $25, online at turkeytrot5kgws.com or beginning at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving morning in the clubhouse at the golf course. Proceeds benefit the GSHS swim and cross country teams.

Mike Vidakovich is a co-founder of the Turkey Day 5K and organizer of other Glenwood Springs running events, and is a regular sports contributor to the Post Independent.

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