It’s normally cold and clear for the annual Turkey Trot 8K road race at the Sports Barn East and that was the case Thursday morning when more than a thousand fitness enthusiasts gathered to kick off their Thanksgiving Day celebration with a little exercise.
Lucas Cotter and Jessica Marlier were the overall winners in this 29th annual event that goes down Lee Highway toward Brainerd before turning left at East Brainerd Road and running through Brainerd Hills toward Brown Acres golf course and back.
Cotter had a goal of 26:40 for the 8K event and he came pretty close as he crossed the finish line with a winning time of 26 minutes, 43 seconds for an average pace of 5:23 per mile.
Marlier finished ninth overall in a field that had 645 finishers with a time of 28:59, which was an average of 5:50 per mile.
Nick McCormick, who was third in this race a year ago, ran smart and finished as the runner-up with time of 27:51 while Adam Veron was third in 28:02. Grayson Kennedy and Zach Buffington completed the top five men with times of 28:16 and 28:21, respectively.
While Cotter’s margin of victory over McCormick was 68 seconds, Marlier’s was significantly more as Delphi Cleaveland was the women’s runner-up after finishing 26th overall with a time of 31:35.
Taylor Sawyer, Renee Jackson and Eryn Queen completed the top five ladies with times of 34:44, 35:04 and 35:54, respectively.
Cotter posted a time of 2:54 in his first marathon at Chickamauga three weeks ago, but he was ready on Thursday as he bolted from the starting line and never looked back. His only competition came from the lead vehicle and he never caught it, but came close a few times.
“It was a perfect day and I’m glad I could win,” said the 28-year-old accountant for TVA shortly after his work was done for the day.
“After I crossed the first hill, I was running for my life, but I was hoping to get a 26:40 and I got pretty close. I had a good run in the marathon, but I was well-rested and fresh today. And there were a couple of hills in there that stung a little bit, but running through the neighborhoods was great and I had a good time out there,” he added.
McCormick normally starts out fast and tries to hang on at the end, which may not be the smartest race strategy to use, but he did things a bit different this time and enjoyed the benefits.
“I felt better than I expected, but I just tried to be a little bit more consistent with my pace. I started off slower than normal, but kept passing people after the first mile. I never saw Lucas after the first mile, but it was a scenic course and not super flat. I didn’t want to start out too fast like I’ve done in the past and I felt better at the end as a result,” the 24-year-old former East Hamilton standout expressed.
Veron was the overall winner at the Chickamauga Marathon on November 9 with a time of 2:45:58. He wasn’t the winner this time around, but he was still happy with the results.
“I just love running in the fall, but that head wind was killer today,” the U.S. Express employee suggested.
“It started hurting toward the end, but I earned my Thanksgiving meal today. Nick caught me at the start of the fourth mile and then pulled ahead. I just didn’t have it in me to catch him today. I’ve run this race a bunch of times and really enjoy it. That was the case today,” he nodded.
Marlier has been the women’s winner in this race at least three or four times, but it’s been a couple of years since she entered as she’s a school teacher in Orlando now.
Her target race for the fall is the California International Marathon, which will be held on Sunday, December 8. Her marathon PR is 2:51, but she’s hoping to post a 2:45 with the goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials.
“This is my final tune-up before the marathon in 10 days, so I just wanted to run smart and see how I felt,” she smiled while other runners were making their way to the finish line.
“The first three miles were really comfortable as I’m really happy with how I ran today. I didn’t crash and burn like I normally do, but this is my first solid race since Boston. My biggest race is coming up, but this was a great way to wrap up my training.
“I’m hoping to run a 2:45 and qualify for the Olympic Trials, so we’ll see what happens,” she concluded.
Rodney Stoker and Jennifer Huwe were the defending champions for this race, but neither of them were present to race.
Thursday’s race benefits the National Kidney Foundation.
(Email John Hunt at email@example.com)