Seasonal residents are arriving in Southwest Florida just in time to join thousands of other runners for the 37th Turkey Trot 5K race Thanksgiving morning at Cape Coral Hospital's Wellness Center.
The 5K race starts and ends at the Wellness Center, 609 S.E. 13th Court, after a scenic tour of safe, well marked neighborhood streets. The runners take off at 7:30 a.m., followed by a mile fun run and a 100-yard Tot Trot. Late registration begins at 6 a.m.
Participants can partake of a continental breakfast of fruit, juices, donuts and bagels in a tent on the grounds.
"This race not only helps yourself with fitness, but helps the community, too," said Fort Myers Track Club president Candy Pemberton. "All the proceeds after our expenses are donated to designated charities."
Runners of all ages and skill levels participate in one of the area's oldest and largest family friendly events of the year. Fort Myers Track Club has pledged $50,000 from the proceeds of the event to help build the Wellness path at Cape Hospital that is part of its future Pathway to Discovery. Additional proceeds will benefit the track club's youth and scholarship programs.
Track club officials provide a group of volunteers to staff the course, water stations, finish line timing and post-race awards areas.
"We've added a photo booth where runners can go have their picture taken in front of a backdrop," said Pemberton. "Photographers will be out on the course and runners can see their photos almost immediately when they finish. For the first time we're giving away pumpkin pies to the group winners. It's just a fun family event. Families from all over the country come and run or walk before they enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner."
Awards are presented to the top overall male and female finishers, masters (40+), grandmasters (50+) and senior grandmaster (60+) categories. Winners in the 5K, three best Thanksgiving themed costumes, and the mile run also receive a pumpkin pie. Age group awards go to the top five male and female finishers in each group.
Registrations are being taken online through the track club's website (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com/turkeytrot). The entry fee goes up $5 after Tuesday to $30 for the 5K Run and $20 for runners age 17 and under. The mile fun run entry is $15 and the Tot Trot $5. Race day entry for the 5K is $40. Race organizers have prepared for at least 2,500 participants.
"We are getting close to last year's registrations, but I think almost 1,000 registered in the last week," said Pemberton. "The price goes up the longer you wait, so it is prudent to register early and make sure to get a race T-shirt in the size you want."
Runners already registered can pick up their race packet from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday at Snyderman's Shoes, 1900 Trailwinds Dr., Fort Myers; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday at Run Florida, 13101 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers; and noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cape Coral Wellness Center. Runners can register at those locations as well in addition to race day.
Unregistered runners/walkers, pets, bikes, vehicles, skateboards, rollerblades and skates are strictly prohibited on the course. Baby joggers are allowed, but participants must remain at the back of the pack so as not to interfere with others.