In Valparaiso, Thanksgiving isn’t just about the food. The Fifth Annual Turkey Trot, a race that has become a holiday tradition for many people in the area, made its way through the snowy Valparaiso streets on Thursday morning. The 5k and 10k race, which grows each year, topped out at 4,000 runners this time around which makes it the biggest race in Northwest Indiana.
The Trot has been hosted by Porter Starke Services for the last five years and started with around 900 participants. Over those years it has grown exponentially to hold thousands of runners and their families with around 200 volunteers to help things move along. The race is put on not only for the runners, but to benefit Porter Starkes programs and employees. “Porter Starke has over 40 programs that we specialize in mental health and addiction. One of the things that this race does is help sponsor funding further education for our staff and high school students throughout our community that want to enter into the mental health field.” CEO of Porter Starke Services Rocco Schiralli explained. “One of the things we wanted to do is we wanted to have a community event to help spread health, balance, and hope within this area. What a better way to do that than with a wonderful event like a race.”
“You can’t argue with all of the people who come out on a holiday to be a part of this race, especially 3,900 of them.” Elliott Miller, Director of Marketing and Development for Porter Starke, stated. “To have a fantastic race that we’ve become a little bit known for and to have families show up year after year here is really outstanding. This race really supports Porter Starke’s mission of health; not just mentally by spending time with your family before the holiday, but that everyone embraces physical health as well.”
The biggest draw for the Turkey Trot is that it’s a unique way to spend time in the morning before the turkey is set on the table. Not only were there region natives that participated, but runners from 33 different states made their way to the Trot. Vickie Williams, who traveled from Chesterton and placed third in her age division, ran the race with many of her family members. “We’ve been doing this for years now but this time we brought a niece and nephew from Alaska, another nephew from Virginia and a brother from Lafayette. We’ve got the whole gang here.” Williams stated. “We think this is a great race, it’s honestly so much fun. All of us even wore themed hats. It’s becoming a part of the holiday to get up early and come here before we eat.”
Not only was the race a big draw for families, it was also a destination for the more dedicated athletes. Joshua Waytovich, Trisha McDowell, Michelle Corrigan, Adam Koronka, and Julie Wilson all ran together as a part of national running group called the Corn Fed Spartans. The group runs in various races around the area but they all said that the Trot was one of the races were they focused on having a good time instead of what their time was. “I really like this one because you can see all of the family and friends getting together and having a good time.” Corrigan explained. “I’m not worried at all about being competitive today because I’m focused on enjoying myself.”
Julie Wilson, in particular, enjoyed the race even more than her partners. “This is the third year that I’ve ran this race and it’s really important to me because this was the first 5k I ever completed. I’ve done it every year since then because it holds a great amount of sentimental value for me.” Wilson explained. “This race has a completely different feel to it.” To make the morning even more meaningful the group also traveled through the race with 20 to 60 pound rucks on their backs. The rucks were a way to hold tribute to all of the men and women who couldn’t make it to the race, and for the soldiers over seas.
From small kids to the grandparents, all of the people who decided to run the Turkey Trot had a great morning, despite the freezing temperature and snow. Many of them got into the spirit by dressing in their best turkey hats and costumes, they crossed the finish line hand in hand, and most of them had a large smile on their face from beginning to end. When there’s a holiday that focuses so much on families and appreciation on the good things in life, it’s really a spectacular sight to witness an event that encompasses those ideas. For hundreds of people on Thursday morning the Trot was truly an event that they are thankful for - and really, what more could you ask for.