It's almost time for Thanksgiving — and that means it's also time for the 16th annual Virginia Run Turkey Trot. Featuring a 5K race and a 2K walk, it'll be held Thursday, Nov. 25, at 8 a.m.
The USATF-certified race begins and ends at the Virginia Run Community Center at 15355 Wetherburn Court, off Route 29 and Pleasant Valley Road in Centreville. And most of all, it's for a good cause.
All proceeds benefit Life with Cancer, Inova Health System's nonprofit program for cancer patients and their families. And this year's race will be run in honor of two Virginia Run residents, Mary Graham and Ken Moore Sr., who died of cancer in November 2003 and February 2004, respectively.
"Last year we raised almost $37,000 for Life with Cancer," said Turkey Trot chairman Dominic DeVincenzo of Virginia Run. "This time, I'm hoping for $50,000. Overall, we've given close to $250,000 to Life with Cancer [in the past 12 years]."
Registration before Nov. 21 is $20, run; $13, walk. After that date, it's $22 and $15, respectively. Register online at www.runwashington.com or at www.racepacket.com. There's no race-day registration, and the field is limited to the first 2,000 run entrants.
The top two males and females overall in the 5K receive plaques and gift certificates to local restaurants, as do the top two Virginia Run residents. Prizes are also given in various age categories. Computer chips attached to runners' shoelaces will record their times.
This year's long-sleeved T-shirts were custom-designed by 2003 Westfield High graduate Ashley Anderson and will be given to registrants at packet pick-up. This may be done Tuesday, Nov. 23, from 6-8:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 24, from 3-8:30 p.m.; or on race day from 6:30-7:45 a.m. at the Virginia Run Community Center.
The event will take place, rain, shine or snow, and parking is available at Centreville Baptist Church and Bull Run Elementary School, both at Route 29 and Pleasant Valley Road. Race results will be posted on www.runwashington.com.
Premier sponsor is Carteret Mortgage Corp. Other main sponsors include First Horizon Bank, Luck Stone Corp., Odyssey Travel, Northern Virginia Oncology Group, Mitchell Eye Institute and Glory Days Grill. To donate raffle items, call Bob Donnelly at 703-830-1179.
When the race began 16 years ago, less than 250 people participated and less than $1,000 was raised. But things have changed dramatically since then. Last year's Turkey Trot attracted more than 1,800 runners and 750 walkers, and DeVincenzo expects a strong turnout this time, too.
"This has become the fourth-largest race in Northern Virginia, in terms of number of participants," he said. "The only ones larger are the Marine Corps Marathon, the Army 10-Miler and the Cherry Blossom Run."
DeVincenzo chalks it up to the race being run on Thanksgiving day and because "it's over early, it's a short flat course, it's fun, there are lots of fun prizes and it's for a terrific cause. And in Northern Virginia, it's the place to be on Thanksgiving morning."
He noted that Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully) and county Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Connolly (D) are usually on hand for the event. Heading a 20-person committee, it's DeVincenzo's second year at chairman, but he's worked on the Turkey Trot committee for more than a dozen years.
"The supervisors honored us last year for our contributions to the community, and the plaque we received now hangs in the community center," he said. "The community also honored us as Virginia Run Volunteers of the Year, and that plaque is hanging in my office at work."
"The committee's very dedicated," said DeVincenzo. "I think we run a really nice race in a relaxed atmosphere, and we always try to see what we can do to make it better."
Virginia Run's Liz Bredthauer, special-events consultant for Life with Cancer, said that because the organization is nonprofit, it depends on donations from corporations and from events such as Turkey Trot. Last year's Turkey Trot proceeds, she said, were the most ever.
She said Life with Cancer has a full slate of programs, not just for those physically affected by cancer, but also for family members and friends emotionally affected by it. "And they're all free," said Bredthauer. "All the programs and groups are run by nurse-educators, social workers and counselors, so we have a fantastic staff."
There are groups, for example, for leukemia patients, for caregivers, for couples and even to teach relaxation techniques via tai chi. And there are support groups for the patient and his or her family members.
"Classes discussing acupuncture are taught by Ph.Ds," said Bredthauer. "And there are classes that, for instance, would help a teen deal with [the fact that] his or her mother has cancer. It would help the teen understand the feelings and changes that they and their mother are going through. That way, they could manage their emotions and better understand the situation."
Classes are available for children, teens and adults. For information about them, various programs and what Life with Cancer does, see www.lifewithcancer.org or call 703-208-5610. A newsletter and monthly calendar of events are also posted on the Web site.
"It means a lot to us to have this support [from Virginia Run's Turkey Trot]," said Bredthauer. "So many people are touched by cancer, and Life with Cancer is a wonderful, free program to help them."