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More than 500 expected for Turkey Day 10K

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — At 10:30 a.m. today, more than 500 runners — with a wide range of abilities — will line up on 10th Street behind the Seventh Avenue starting line as another King Turkey Day 10K road race takes center stage during the city’s annual mid-September festival.

Started by the Okabena Area Bay Striders, a local running club, in 1980, the popular event continues to thrive.

“We’ve seen changes in the kind of runners over the years,” says Jerry Fiola, who has been the chief race director through all 34 years. “When we first started, we drew mostly only serious runners, who ran in lots of road races every year. Now, we attract a wide variety of runners, getting more women and more kids all the time.”

Three of those early serious runners — Wayne Drealan of Fulda, Midg White of Worthington and Steve Vlieger of Mitchell, S.D. (originally from Chandler) — have never missed Worthington’s annual 10,000-meter (10 kilometers or 6.2 miles) race and are registered to run again.

“The list of runners who have been in every one has been shrinking,” Fiola said. “About 10 years ago, we had about 10 guys who had never missed one, but now it’s down to just Wayne, Midg and Jerry — who are all in their 60s now, but were in their late 20s or early 30s when we started in 1980.”

With a total of 14 age groups, along with a wheelchair event, the race is separated into 30 classifications by age and gender.

Records are kept and awards are given for each division.

Jerrold Wynia in 1983 ran the all-time course record, cruising up 10th Street, around Lake Okabena and back up 10th to the Third Avenue finish in a blistering time of 29 minutes and 37 seconds.

Three years later, Rod DeHaven — a future world-class marathon runner — also ran the course under 30 minutes, clocking a time of 29:54.

Amy Lyons holds the women’s course, running a time of 34:57 in 2006.

Last year, Doreen Nduka Kitaka — who is registered again this year — came close to setting a new women’s record, winning with her time of 35:01.

“We expect several outstanding runners again,” said Fiola, who is looking to turn the reins of being in charge of the event over to someone else after next year’s 35th running. “We had about 440 runners pre-registered and we usually get at least 80 more on race day, so we likely will have well over 500 total on Saturday.”

With more than 100 volunteers — most of them seasoned veterans — helping out, the event is one of the most organized in the upper Midwest and draws many repeat competitors.

“There’s a lot going on,” summed up Fiola. “We have workers helping with traffic control, handling the T-shirts at registration, handing out water along the way, and taking care of things at the post-race awards picnic (at Centennial Park), besides those that work at the registration table and the people at the finish line.”

Nearly ideal weather was predicted by the experts. Cooler temperatures are predicted and the forecasted rain may hold off until later in the day.