Unseasonably warm weather made for a likely record-breaking turnout at Spokane’s annual Turkey Trot in Manito Park.
The event, organized by the Bloomsday Runners Club, is the largest annual fundraiser for the Second Harvest food bank. Volunteers collect cash and food donations on-site as serious runners, friends, families and dogs take a run – or stroll – through the park.
After running last year’s Turkey Trot solo, Vanessa Johnson convinced her boyfriend, Cody Templeton, to run with her Thursday morning.
Templeton had just one condition: The pair would have to wear head-to-toe turkey costumes.
He opted for a brown suit made of a felt-like material, with a turkey head covering halfway between a hat and a balaclava. On his back, an array of brightly colored feathers were attached via elastic bands around his arms.
Johnson went for a simpler design: an orange spandex bodysuit with a turkey mask covering her face.
“We tried to cut a mouth hole for a little breathing,” Templeton said.
The race has no finish line, no times and few rules. Many choose to walk along the route, and people stop frequently to greet friends or just take a break.
Curt Kinghorn, the race announcer, set the tone as runners migrated toward the start line near the park’s duck pond just before 9 a.m.
“The exact distance of today’s race is the exact distance you decide to run!” he announced over speakers. Runners could opt for a single loop of just under 2 miles (Kinghorn encouraged rounding up), or continue for a 3- or 5-mile course.
“Cheating is not only tolerated, but it’s encouraged,” he said.
A group of five women wearing tutus gathered by picnic tables before the race began. They were all members of the Flying Irish Running Club, a local group with about 2,500 members that meets for weekly runs, followed by beer and bad Irish jokes.
“After six runs, you have to get on stage to tell a joke,” said Amina Giles. Being Irish is not a requirement to join.
Giles wore a tutu with pink, blue and purple stripes. Her companion, Mary Naber, had a colorful orange and yellow tutu.
The group often does themed costumes for runs and decided on tutus because most members already had them. Though Giles said that didn’t stop her from having to go shopping for the Turkey Trot.
“I found out I wasn’t a size 6 kids anymore,” she laughed.
Just before 9:15 a.m., the first pack of runners began making their way around the duck pond into the second loop. The early finishers were mostly dressed in serious running gear, but a few costumes finished quickly, including another full-body turkey suit and a panda.
Temperatures hovered just above 50 degrees as predicted, and the possible rain forecasted earlier in the week didn’t show up.
“I don’t ever remember it being this warm,” said Jackie VanAllen, the Turkey Trot director for the Bloomsday Road Runners Club.
Last year, the trot raised about $6,700 for Second Harvest and brought in just under 7,000 pounds of food. Volunteers staffing the food bins were optimistic about reaching similar numbers for 2017.
Kinghorn has been announcing the run for about 30 years. He said starting Thanksgiving with a bit of fun and a bit of generosity makes it worth it.
“This is the best event that ever takes place in this town,” he said.