Annual Lions Club Turkey Trot draws 7,500 participants
By David Sharos For The Sun November 24, 2011 4:52PM
Jocelyn Petrella, on the left, and Amber Druien, both natives of Naperville, speak to each other after they finished first and second in the 2011 Naperville Turkey Trot on Thursday November 24, 2011. Jocelyn and Amber have become good friends after rivaling each other for the top finishes in the Naperville Turkey Trot every year. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 26, 2011 8:50AM
Thousands of folks were on the run Thursday morning in Naperville, hoping to burn a few calories and create more room for the feast that was to come later. All that exercise came as a result of the Naperville Lions Club and its 14th annual 5K Turkey Trot event, which started at 8 a.m. at Naperville Central High School.
The slightly cool but still mild weather on Thursday provided a welcome backdrop for the race, which benefits people with sight and hearing disorders, diabetes, as well as needy families in the Naperville area. Registration for the race itself, which featured 7,500 runners, was sold out weeks ago.
“It’s my understanding that 1,000 runners were added over last year, and the race was closed even quicker,” said Nick Hird, manager at the Naperville Running Company. “People who have put this together have done a fabulous job, and I think a lot of folks just see this as a healthy way to start their day that will be followed by a lot of great food, relaxing, and being with family.”
Hird also described the race as “the most family friendly race in the area.”
“I think this race really focuses on families more than any other in that brothers and sisters and parents all come out and you see more of that togetherness than you do at other races,” he said.
Lions Club Board member Maria Wilson was busy Thursday morning checking in runners as thousands packed the Naperville Central gym. Wilson said the 7,500 runners probably represent the maximum number of participants the race can accommodate.
“I’ve been with the Lions Club for 17 years, and we’ve increased our numbers every year we’ve had this race,” she said. “Given the course we run and the room needed at the starting area and the streets, we’re sort of topped out. We know this is a popular family event, and people like to come here before their holiday starts. Like our motto says: ‘run fast — eat later.’”
The race itself was organized into 14 different age groups, beginning at 9 and under, up to a senior group for runners 70 and older. Despite its history, this year’s event attracted a lot of first time participants like the Gibala family from Bolingbrook.
“This is our first time coming to the Turkey Trot, and we love the fact it is so family oriented,” said Tina Gibala, who was joined by her husband Rob and their 1½ year-old daughter Madelyn. “My husband is basically the runner and I’m going to jog along with Maddie while she rides in the stroller. This is the second race we’ve brought her to, and she doesn’t mind the cold.”
Pat Byrne of Glen Ellyn, who coordinates visually impaired services at the DuPage Center for Independent Living, said this was also his first race and he wanted to come this year “as a way of giving back.”
“The Lions Club is a big supporter of some of the things we do, and I wanted to be here to acknowledge their efforts,” he said.
Bryne was accompanied by his daughter Joanna of Wheaton, who said that coming out for the race “was a way to get her going on Thanksgiving morning.”
“I don’t think I’ll be able to burn enough calories to make up for the dinner we’ll be eating later, but this race gets me up so I’ll be ready to start cooking afterwards and this will put me in the right mental state,” she said. “There is some stress to the day as well with all you have to do.”
Thursday’s race proved to be a reunion of sorts for former Naperville resident Jocelyn Patrella, 31, and Amber Druien, 26, who came to Naperville from Sterling to attend North Central College and continues to live here today. The two women have dominated the overall women’s competition with 1-2 finishes for the last few years, including this year.
“I met Amber after a race a few years back where she passed me during the last 100 meters,” Patrella said. “I live in Colorado now and just ran a 5K there a few days ago. It was definitely easier to be running at a lower altitude. We look forward to seeing each other each year, and I’m getting more of my family involved.”
“It’s fun to race against someone that is about the same fitness level as you, and I look forward to meeting up with Jocelyn every year at this time,” Druien added. “You get the chance to meet people you’d never know otherwise.”
Awards and prizes were given out to the top three overall male and female runners plus the top three male and female runners in the age groups categories. Final race results were made available after 3:00 p.m. Thursday at www.ChicagoAA.com.