Runners of all ages gathered Saturday morning to celebrate the 22nd Annual Turkey Trot in the City of Commerce. This year, 382 participants arrived as early as 6 a.m. to warm up and be ready for the 5k run and walk. While some saw the race as a chance to demonstrate their running skills, others just wanted to experience the race at a more leisurely pace.
The Turkey Trot is a family event started in 1991 to promote fitness before the Thanksgiving holiday when people are likely to eat more than usual.
“It has been a tradition, it is a community race,” said Robert Lipton, assistant director of the Dept. of Parks and Recreation. “All residents here try to encourage people to come and exercise before the [Thanksgiving] big meal.”
“They come to start their exercise program and early resolution for new years,” said Frank Garcia, a parks and recreation sports supervisor.
By 8 a.m., the starting lane was packed with runners young and old. Parks and Recreation Commission Chairperson Rudy Torres fired the shot that signaled the start of the 5K Turkey Trot.
Steve Mendoza, 22, was the first male to cross the finish line, 17 minutes, 3 seconds after the official start.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Mendoza, referring to the turnout for the event. “It is nice to see some local people running here and having a good time,” he added.
Thirty-nine-year-old Mirna Underwood claimed the first place spot among the female runners, finishing the race in 21 minutes, 51 seconds.
By coincidence, Underwood happens to be one of Mendoza’s former teachers. Underwood told EGP she was a supporter of Mendoza’s running career in high school.
Because the Turkey Trot is open to people of all ages, trophies are also awarded to the top performing runners in the senior category. This year, husband and wife, 74 year-old Martha Torres and 79 year-old Raymundo Torres, claimed those honors.
“They … have participated in our races for many, many years,” according to Garcia.
Jorge Ortiz, a teacher at Rosewood Park School and a park and recreation leader, said he was pleased to see so many people turn out for the annual event: “I’m all about promoting fitness and what a better opportunity than this,” he said. “This is our city event. I think getting kids out here on a Saturday morning and [seeing them] following in my footsteps, following the teachers’ footsteps, brings me a lot of pride.”
Garcia said he is grateful the city council and the parks and recreation commission support these types of “special events in the city.” He invited the community to participate in the city’s next race, the 5K Freedom Run on July 4, 2014.