FISHHAWK – On a chilly Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people showed up to the Publix plaza in FishHawk Ranch. When the signal shot out, most ran – some even fought their way through the crowd in search of a clear path.
No, this wasn’t a mad stampede to snag a great Black Friday deal. These people showed up to take part in the fifth annual FishHawk Turkey Trot. Race director Leda Eaton estimates between the 5K race, one-mile fun run and people who were simply there for support, almost 3,000 people were involved with the event.
The race started out as a simple way for Eaton to give back to the community through her food bank, Seeds Of Hope. As the race has grown from 450 runners in the first year to moer than 1,700 that ran the 5K this past Thanksgiving, Eaton said part of the key has been focusing on the race itself and the benefits will trickle down to Seeds Of Hope.
“People want to have a good quality race experience,” Eaton said.
Even with other and more established turkey trots taking place, the FishHawk version hasn’t struggled to attract quality runners. This year Riverview High alum and current USF cross country and track and field member Michael Babinec won in a course record of 15:38 for 5K.
“It’s a fun community run,” Babinec said. “I know a lot of people that (ran the race).”
The sense of community was a common theme among the runners. Dan Carney was taking part in his third FishHawk Turkey Trot. Even with the low temperatures that started in the 30s, Carney fought through it.
“This is a real great family event,” Carney said. “The race is in a residential area and very enjoyable.”
The temperature wasn’t an issue for everyone, however. The Warmbier family recently moved to the area from Virginia. While they agreed the race was a good community event, it was the weather that made the day.
“It’s still warmer than Virginia,” said Alan Warmbier.
With the success of the race and the continued growth of it, Eaton said she has looked into ways to further grow Seeds Of Hope.
“This (race) is our major fundraiser. I would like to spread it out and not be reliant on just one race,” Eaton said.
As long as there are people like Ashley Johns, Eaton won’t have to worry about this race going away any time soon.
“I would do it again next year,” Johns said.