More than 2,300 brave elements at Thanksgiving Day Run
Published 9:51 am Saturday, November 30, 2013
On the heels of a blustery winter storm that left the landscape covered snow and ice, as well as temperatures only in the mid 20-degrees range, a collection of 2,300-plus runners descended on Niles’ slushy city streets for the 32nd annual Niles-Buchanan YMCA Thanksgiving Day Run.
The event had 455 runners come out for the 10k event, 1,420 for the 5k, 347 for the fun run, 85-runners in the kids division and two lone bandit runners participate in the day’s activities.
Though this is year’s turnout for the race was down a little from years past, administrators, volunteers and participants were all equally impressed with the number of people who showed up to run, given that the both the weather and road conditions were less than ideal.
However, running enthusiasts are typically very passionate about their hobby and will very rarely let Mother Nature come between them and their pursuit of better finishing times, accomplishing goals or just having a good time putting their feet to the pavement.
You can count Decatur resident Bob Smola among the ranks of even the most devout of runners.
Six weeks ago, Smola was lying on an operation table having surgery to repair a severe back injury. Over the ensuing weeks after his operation, he used his unflappable positive attitude, strong work ethic, and in his own words “stubbornness” to overcome the adversities he was facing and continue his streak as the only man to have participated in all 32 Thanksgiving Day Runs.
“This is a great source of pride for me,” Smola said. “It means a lot to me that I’ve never missed this race. I saw what it was like in the beginning. The struggle for turnout, the complications to advertise it, and to see it now. It says a lot about, not just the administrators or volunteers who make it all possible, but the town itself.
“It’s really a fantastic thing they all do, and knock-on-wood, I hope to make it to the 50th installment.”
Another pair of runners who braved the cold and snow was Niles residents Bob and Jennifer Conway.
Bob, 71, has been running competitively for 30 years, with his crowning achievement coming a few months ago when qualified himself to run in next year’s Boston Marathon. His wife Jennifer, 67, had never run a race before and decided this year’s trot would be her first.
“I’ve been running for a very long time and I’m not afraid to tell you that this is the most anxious I’ve ever felt before a race,” Bob said. “I’ve been plugging away for years trying to get her to do something like this and now that we’re here, I’m starting to feel it.”
“I’m definitely thankful to have him be here with me. He’s coached me here and there over the past few weeks and let me know what to expect once I get out there. I know how much he loves to run, how much he loves me and now I get to show how much I love him by finishing this race; snow and all,” Jennifer said.
Minnesota’s Ben Jacobs, 24, won the men’s 10k event for the second straight year with a time of 35:08. Niles native Ginvera Weasely, 26, won the women’s 10k with a time of 43:30.
Kalamazoo’s Brendan Maloney, 21, won the men’s 5k at 16:36; while 11-year-old Kendall Hayes from Versailles, Ky. became the youngest overall women’s 5k winner ever with a time of 20:29
In all, event organizers estimated that this year’s addition will have raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,500 to $4,000 to go towards youth programs and scholarships through the YMCA.