By Erin Beck
The beloved Turkey Trot, for the 14th year, will be held in Shinnston on Thanksgiving.
Participants Thursday, whether they’re speedy or slower, will have a chance to burn some calories and socialize with friends and family who are in from out of town for the holiday.
“I went to Lincoln High School,” said Jason Talkington, who plans the event with his wife Stacia. “You see a lot of mini-reunions going on.”
Talkington, who is from Wallace and now lives in Gettysburg, was looking forward to reconnecting with friends of his own.
Talkington credited his wife with doing most of the work, although he was available for the interview.
There’s no waiting around for the 3.1-mile race to start at 9 a.m. Talkington said the event has a festival-like atmosphere with free activities.
Along with the race, other draws to the event include snacks, hot chocolate, a DJ, Mr. and Mrs. Claus, door prizes, giveaways, and face painters “that just do amazing work,” Talkington said.
“There’s lots of activities and fun things going on,” he said. “(It’s) just a hub of activity that goes on there that morning.”
The top three adult finishers in age divisions receive medals. People may sign up in teams or individually. The winning team gets a trophy with a golden turkey on top.
Kids may participate in the 100-yard dash, the “Gobble Wobble.” There are three kids’ divisions based on age, 2 to 4-year-olds, 5 to 7-year-olds, and 8 to 10-year-olds. They receive goodie bags.
The kids race starts at 8:50 a.m.
Music stations and the motivational “encouragement team” members, who not only block the street, but also have signs and noisemakers, will set up along the course to cheer for runners as well.
People who haven’t signed up online as of Monday night can sign up at Jimmy’s Diner on Wednesday from 5- 8 p.m. They can also pick up race packets.
They may also sign up the morning of the race starting at 7 a.m.
Runners take off on Pike Street, which will be closed. Participants turn around at the grade school.
An alternate race, for those who don’t think they can end a 5-mile race in 45 minutes, ends at the rail trail.
Courses are well-marked, Talkington said.
“We got guys kicking out this race right at 16 minutes,” he said. “That’s booking it. That’s flying. And then we’ve got people that are just there to support the cause.”
Named for his cousin, Talkington said the Marie Gaston Scholarship Fund sponsors kids who want to go to 4-H camp, as well as provide for other 4-H needs.
He said Gaston was active in 4-H, on the county and state level, before tragically dying in a car wreck as a sophomore at West Virginia Wesleyan in 1992.
As the senior class president and in the top 10% of her class, she graduated from Lincoln High School in 1990. He said she also had a “vibrant personality.”
“She was a 4-H All Star, just a great example of an ideal 4-Her,” he said. “We’ve always looked for ways to honor her memory. We still talk about Marie. Every day almost it seems her name’s coming up in conversation.”
Other than some professionally hired companies, including timekeepers who use chips in runner’s bibs to ensure accurate and official timing, the event is made possible by volunteers, he said.
“It’s a nice small-town race,” he said, “but at the same time, it’s a very professional-level race.”
He is hoping 1,000 runners show up this year. Online sign-ups indicated that goal may be possible. They’ve accomplished that before, but not every year. The record is 1,021.
He encouraged runners to recruit others to participate. They can also be onlookers.
Even those who don’t show up and who’ve paid their race fee receive race shirts, he said.
The race fee is $20. It increases to $25 on the day of the race. The kids’ race is $10.
The area is cleared and cleaned out by about 10:30 a.m. at the latest, and participants are off to their Thanksgiving dinners.
“We always like to joke that you now have an excuse to eat that second piece of pie,” Talkington said.
More information is available at shinnstonturkeytrot.com.