Even with weather that was more rainy Seattle than sunny Charleston this week, the 35th annual Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble already appears to be poised to set a record, at least for registrations.
The Thanksgiving Day tradition starts at 9 a.m. Thursday on Meeting Street in front of Citadel Square Baptist Church.
Officials said online-only registrations closed Sunday at 4,085, or 1,205 more than last year’s event. Including mail-in registrations, the total as of Tuesday was 4,430, not including 243 children signed up for the kids fun run.
With sunnier skies expected today and Thursday, officials feel confident that this year’s 5K will eclipse last year’s records of 6,052 registrants and 5,554 finishers. The latter number ranked Turkey Day as the second-largest single race in South Carolina and the 28th largest 5K in the country, according to Running USA.
“I think we’ll hit somewhere between 6,500 and 6,700,” said Race Manager Chuck Magera, who has worked with the Knights of Columbus on staging the race for 30 years. “In the past three years we’ve gotten about 2,000 people signing up in the days leading up to the race.”
In 2011, registration two days before the race added 2,075 to pre-registered figures.
Race Director Rob Wills credits the string of record-breaking years — 2010 and 2011 set consecutive finisher records — to a combination of “natural growth” and a more concerted effort to spread the word about the race, especially online.
In-person registration and packet pick-up is at Marion Square, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday. The fee for the 5K is $35 today and $40 on Thursday. The event is free for seniors age 75 and older. The fee for the kids run is $8.
With the expanded field, the Knights of Columbus are implementing a wave start for the first time in this race, to control the flow and ease congestion on the course.
The race begins on Meeting Street, around White Point Gardens, to the waterfront Murray Boulevard, right on Lenwood Boulevard, right on South Battery Street and left on King Street for the final mile to the finish line at the Francis Marion Hotel.
“Serious runners” with an expected finish of 25 minutes or faster will start at 9 a.m. “Joggers,” anticipating a finish of 25-49 minutes, will set off at 9:03 a.m. Walkers and those with strollers will bring up the rear with a 9:06 a.m. start time. The kids run starts at 10 a.m.
Part of the rising popularity of the Turkey Day Run has been an effort by the Knights of Columbus to improve the event, especially the post-race celebration.
This year that includes music by the Blue Dogs, a beer garden, a climbing wall provided by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, “donut dunking station” by Krispy Kreme and the Charleston Photo Bus by Charleston Party Booth.