LAKE JUNALUSKA — It’s hard to imagine a more perfect day to launch a Thanksgiving Day 5K in Haywood.

The 35-degree temperature, with the promise of eventual warmth from the bright sunshine, was perfect running weather, and there is hardly a more scenic, safe place for a 5K than Lake Junaluska.

The Waynesville Sunrise Rotary Club members, a small but mighty group of less than 20, decided a 5k Turkey Trot might be just the ticket to helping raise funds for the many worthy projects in the community the club supports.

The registration was capped at 310, a number club members believed would be manageable as they learned the ropes of a new event.

Glory Hound Events handled the actual race details, but there were dozens of other details to tend to.

Volunteers were needed at checkpoints, so the Pisgah High School National Honor Society was recruited to help Rotarians along the route. There were check-in packets to prepare, T-shirts to order, registration duties to handle and more.

Race coordinator and club member Lane Perry was ecstatic with every aspect of the day.

“We’re surprised by the turnout,” he said of the 310 registrants that filled every available slot at least a week before the deadline. “We knew the community wanted something like this, but we didn’t know how much interest there would be. Economists talk about revenge spending after COVID. I think this is a revenge event, and what’s better than to be hungry for community engagement?”

Perry estimated about 65% of the registrants were local, and predicted the event would certainly grow next year.

“We’re going to run with this,” he added.

Club member Randy Rogers said there would easily have been 500 runners had the number not been capped, and club president George Shepherd had high hopes for a long-running Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Haywood for years to come.

By the numbers

Brendan Murray of Durham finished in first place with a time of 17:35.6.

Pisgah High School freshman and standout cross country runner Daniel Sayblack finished second with a time 17:44.9.

Bradley Rutledge of Ocala, Florida ran a 18:42.1 to place third overall.

Runners from 15 different states were represented within the 310 total participants as 71% hailed from NC and 65% were WNC residents.

Ages represented in the Turkey Trot were from one-year-old up to 85-years-old. 32 runners were aged 12 or younger.

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