WORTHINGTON -- The idea came at Christmas-time, when all the family were together.

Two of Gwen Fleace’s sons, Steve and Stacy, decided it might be fun for the family to run the next King Turkey Day 10K race together. Several of them were already veteran long distance runners, so they agreed.

Gwen turned 80 last fall and has run many 10K races in Worthington.

This year, however, it will be different.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, and everything changed. Months later, it was decided that the annual Turkey Day 10K race would happen, but it would be a “virtual” event.

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And so it is. Gwen, Steve (who lives in Grand Marais), Stacy and his wife Cathy (Worthington), their son Ian (Round Lake) and a granddaughter Theresa (from South Dakota), and perhaps one or two other family members, too, will participate in this year’s race.

For Gwen, a very active 80-year-old, she’s had to change her routine over the past several weeks to get ready. Her first priority had been showing her registered quarter horse, Beau Pep Bambi, but suddenly she needed to get ready for another road race.

“Personally, I’ve been showing my horse all summer. And I’ve been putting more emphasis on that than running,” she said. “I’ve been trying to train in between, but the days are too short.”

For busy octogenarians like Gwen, there certainly doesn’t seem to be enough time in a day. But she’s determined to be ready at race-time, so she’s even doing some hill work (walking, not running, primarily).

In this virtual event, competitors don’t have to actually be at the traditional race site. They can stake out the 10 kilometers from anywhere and post their times. But the Fleace family members say they’ll show up to run the usual course, which will be marked, on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Stacy can’t wait. He’s in charge of bringing the grill for the family picnic afterward.

“It’ll be a big deal,” he said. “Being that it’s always been such a giant race, I really don’t know what to expect. Personally, I think there may be some other people there, because they might want to do the same thing. We’ll see when we get there.”

T-shirt and packet pick-up began on Tuesday at the Worthington Area YMCA and continues through Sept. 25. All registered participants receive a King Turkey Day shirt, printable bib, finish line ribbon and finishers medal. All who participate by posting a video will be entered in a drawing for one of three door prizes.

Persons can register online for “event” at AllSportCentral.com. Competitors can run or walk on a treadmill, trail, road, park, sidewalk or even around their own house or yard. They are encouraged to take several photos of themselves at various points, making sure the BIB number is always visible.

Photos can be submitted by selecting the Virtual Race button on the entry confirmation page and logging in using the same account used during registration. Or runners can post to social media using #ktd2020finishline. All photos and times will need to be posted between Sept. 1-20.

YMCA Administrative Services Director Kris Hohensee said she’s happy the race can go on.

“We didn’t want to ex-nay the whole thing. We still wanted to do something to give the community something to do to stay active, get out there, maintain an active lifestyle and get the community together,” she explained.

Gwen Fleace would certainly agree. When contacted for this story, she said the virtual race is a way for her to challenge COVID-19 itself. Too many people, she declared, are sitting around the house afraid to venture out.

After all, she’s been active her entire life and isn’t about to come to a stop now. She began running in her 40s, she recalls, “because I had to take these boys to races and they were too young to drive.” Over the years, her races included not just the Worthington Turkey 10K but the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth and Twin Cities races, too.

This year’s Turkey 10K won’t be as ambitious as in the past, however.

“It’s not going to be really so much about being competitive,” Gwen said. “And I like to compete, but I’m not in any kind of shape this year. For us it’s going to be a family time.”

She wants to make sure plenty of pictures are taken.

“I think I’m going to value mostly the family pictures, with the numbers and the T-shirts on,” she said.