WORTHINGTON -- People who compete in the Worthington King Turkey Day 10K race, 5K race and 5K walk say that it’s a special time that they look forward to every year. This year’s event, however, might be more special than most.

The 2019 running and walking events mark two anniversaries. It will be the 40th year of the 10K race and the 20th year of the 5K walk.

“We had a combined over 600 people (sign up) last year. I think we’re looking at about the same number this year. I’ve already had many registrations coming in,” said Kris Hohensee, the Worthington YMCA administrative services director who is in her first year as lead organizer for the races.

Many runners set their clocks to KTD race day. One of those is Wayne Drealan, 66, a Spearfish, S.D., resident who returns often to Worthington.

“One thing they told me when they gave me this job, Wayne Drealan will be the first one signing up every year. And sure enough, he was the first this year,” Hohensee said.

All three races in 2019 will begin at 9 a.m. at the corner of 6th Avenue and 10th Street.

YMCA Executive Director and CEO Andy Johnson was instrumental in getting the 5K walk started.

“There was actually a very informal walk going on. And somebody said, ‘Why don’t you put it on?’ So we did it along with the local hospital,” Johnson said. “We went into this with the thought that this would be a family-oriented activity, and families could be involved even if they weren’t runners.”

The start of the 10K tradition was brainstormed in the late 1970s by a Worthington-based running group that called itself the Okabena Bay Area Striders. Drealan, Jerry Fiola, Tom Navara, Owen Van Essen, Stan Haas and Dr. Bob Aby were original Striders members, and they were avid runners -- compiling up to 75 miles a week or more.

A total of 101 finishers competed in the first 10K in 1980, which was won by Worthington’s Rick Brandl. Two years later, the race expanded to 319 entrants. There were about 800 runners at the race’s peak.

The event has been successful, in part, due to the many race-day volunteers that line the route encouraging runners and distributing cups of water. The race route, which features pleasant views of Lake Okabena, is also cited as a reason to compete.

“Any time you have an anniversary, that’s a great thing. Forty years for an event in a town like Worthington, that’s a long time,” said Johnson. “The (5K) race has its own kind of tradition. And it’s very traditional now to do that walk as a family. This is a family thing. They look forward to Turkey Day, and the walk is part of that.”