Our thanks to the Culpeper Star Exponent’s Hunter Robinson for his coverage of our first annual 5K Turkey Trot. Read the article below or view the article and photos on www.starexponent.com


With the temperature dipping into the low 30s and the wind chill making the feel-like temperature in the teens, this was no normal Thanksgiving morning. Runners lined up outside of Powell Wellness Center to participate in the inaugural Culpeper Turkey Trot.


Some runners sported shorts, others tights, but they all sported a smile as the beginning countdown hit zero and the 5K officially began. More than 300 people made their way out of the wellness center’s parking lot and toward Kestner Wayside Park before looping around and heading toward the Culpeper Country Club, where the 5K would reach its last leg, which featured a run back to the parking lot.


After the fun-run had ended, participants and spectators flocked inside Powell Wellness Center to warm up and socialize before enjoying the rest of the holiday. The event, in total, lasted about an hour and a half, and organizer Sarah Pannill said she couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.


“I think that this was great for the first time ever,” Pannill said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.”


Pannill began planning the event back in September. The event came about when she noticed there were no events happening in Culpeper the morning of Thanksgiving. If someone, especially a runner, wanted to participate in an early-morning holiday event, they would have to travel to Fredericksburg or one of the other surrounding towns. Thus, the Culpeper Turkey Trot was born.


Expectations for the event were small, with Pannill not expecting more than maybe 50 or 75 participants, tops. She said that every time she would get an email notification about someone signing up online, she would get excited. That lasted until the 200th participant signed up. Once that happened, her excitement turned to nervousness as she realized the entire community hadn’t just heard about the event—the entire community was coming to the event.


One of those community members was Tisha Downing, Mrs. Virginia International for 2018. She heard about the event and reached out to see how she could help. As a member of the community, she thought it was a nice event to have in Culpeper.


“The turnout was really exciting,” Downing said. “This event is good for the community to have and I think more and more people will show up in the coming years.”


A big story for the participants, and especially the stationary observers, was the weather. With this Thanksgiving reaching close to record lows, staying warm and not letting the cold beat out the event were two main priorities. Downing said that the weather definitely played its part, but it didn’t affect the participants.


“Everyone was still determined to reach the finish line, despite the frigidness,” Downing said.


Anytime a community puts on an event like a turkey trot, a variety of people will show up. The hard-core runners, who race in 5Ks whenever they get a chance, will be at the front of the line to sign up, but people just looking for a nice morning walk will also sign up. Culpeper’s turkey trot proved to be no different, with runners and walkers of all varieties participating. Elementary school-aged kids all the way to grandparents with their grandchildren came out. There were even a few dogs that went out for a nice morning walk with their owners.


Campbell and Isabella Guidl were two of the younger participants at the event. Campbell, the older brother, has raced in more than ten 5Ks, while Isabella had only reached five. Still, they had a great time at the event and Isabella was able to stay warm despite the temperature.


“I put my hat on and my socks kept me warm,” Isabella said. “I kept pushing myself to keep going and that also helped to keep me warm.”


Overall, the event was an overwhelming success and the event achieved Pannill’s one goal for the function: Providing a fun, family event that is affordable.


Based on the reaction of the participants, it will achieve that goal for years to come.