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Record-breaking turnout at Sacramento’s annual Run to Feed the Hungry

Take a look at Sacramento's 24th annual Thanksgiving Run to Feed the Hungry

On Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 23, more than 27,000 people from around the nation came to Sacramento to participate in a holiday tradition: the Run to Feed the Hungry.
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On Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 23, more than 27,000 people from around the nation came to Sacramento to participate in a holiday tradition: the Run to Feed the Hungry.

America’s largest turkey trot got even bigger this year.

Organizers say 29,604 people registered for the Run to Feed the Hungry, a record for the local Thanksgiving Day tradition that raises money for the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

“The Sacramento community is a very giving community,” said Blake Young, chief executive of the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. “This is near and dear to their hearts.”

The race dates to 1994, when 796 participants turned out for the inaugural Run to Feed the Hungry. Approximately 29,000 registered in 2016.

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Hillary Sunada, participating in her 10th race, adjusts her turkey headpiece during the Run to Feed the Hungry event in Sacramento on Thursday Nov. 23, 2017. Paul Kitagaki Jr. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Donning a variety of turkey hats, beanies, tutus and even head-to-toe gobbler costumes, participants cruised along East Sacramento streets in mild temperatures described as perfect for runners, walkers and every speed in between.

From the Fabulous 40s to McKinley Park, spectators sipped mimosas on their porches and cheered on a stream of competitive runners, families, couples and colleagues who packed the streets.

“I can’t remember a better weather day,” Young said.

Karen Schmelzer and her daughter Emma Archer were among thousands who turned out for an early 10K race. Archer, 13, said it was her 10th time at the crowded starting line on J Street. Schmelzer, 41, had pushed Archer along the course in a stroller as a baby.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to give back and not just write a check,” Schmelzer said.

Many runners shared her desire to challenge themselves for a good cause. Young said he expected the event to generate more than $950,000 to help provide food at all of the county’s food banks and fund other programs under the organization.

Some said the early morning exercise offered another benefit: justification for seconds of mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie and other indulgences later on.

“We feel less guilty for the rest of the day,” said Luke Franklin, 30, who ran the 10K with a group of friends and family.

Franklin, Tarryn Joseph and Dylan Matthee drove from San Francisco to spend time with family and wore matching hats resembling roasted turkeys that they bought on Amazon to capture the “turkey spirit,” said Joseph, 27.

Sacramento resident Gavin Yabut, 10, said he ran a mile every day to prepare for the 5K. His favorite part of the race? “Going to the team stands and having donuts and hot chocolate.”

Winners of the Run to Feed the Hungry:

▪ Women’s 5K: Rachel Mitchell, 26, Sacramento – 16 minutes, 56 seconds

▪ Men’s 5K: Michael Davila, 27, Moreno Valley – 14:50

▪ Women’s 10K: Lindsay Tollefson, 32, Mammoth Lakes – 35:46

▪ Men’s 10K: Brendan Gregg, 28, Davis – 30:04

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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