There were plenty of runners to go around for the multiple Thanksgiving morning 5K races around the Peninsula, including three in Williamsburg: one large, one mid-size, and one small informal one. And there were additional holiday races in Newport News and Smithfield, with large turnouts, on the most popular road racing day of the year.
The biggest of them all was the 10th annual Blue Talon Bistro Turkey Trot 5K, starting and finishing in front of the popular restaurant on Prince George Street, in the Merchants Square area. A tour of Colonial Williamsburg started the race, including views of the Capitol Building and the Governor's Palace, before returning by Mathew Whaley School and Scotland Street to a second loop, this time of the College of William and Mary campus.
There were 2,086 finishers in the Blue Talon 5K run and walk, 1,106 female and 980 male. An additional 121 participants finished the 1K kids fun run, 75 female and 46 male, for a grand total of 2,207 official chip-timed finishers. It was the sixth straight year with over 2,000 finishers for the holiday race that started in 2007, with the numbers slightly down from the record last year of 2,348 finishers in the 5K, and 218 finishers in the kids run. The weather was overcast and cool, with the worst weather, a steady rain, occurring during the 1K fun run. Race organization and results were done by J&A Racing of Virginia Beach, the same group that puts on the Shamrock Marathon, half marathon and 8K in March, and many other Southside races.
The most competitive, by far, of all the holiday races, the Blue Talon 5K had four runners under 16:30, nine under 18:00, and 16 total under 19 minutes, and featured a "barn-burner" for first place, won by Adam Otstot, 34, of Williamsburg (15:52) over Derryn Bray, 32, of Poquoson (15:56), followed closely by Levi Warring, 22, of Williamsburg (16:13) and Zachary Perkins, 24, of Boston (16:23). Former Williamsburg resident Blaine O'Reilly, now serving in the Army at Manhattan, Kan., just missed breaking 17 minutes with his 17:01, 10 seconds ahead of Spencer Conti, 17, of Toano (17:11).
For the women, Jamestown High's Thorin Jean, 16, of Williamsburg won in 19:29, followed by William and Mary senior Jessica Armstrong, 21, of Newport News (19:52), another JHS runner, Kirsten Long, 15, of Williamsburg (20:05) and Amy Smith, 26, of Winchester (20:06).
The Masters (ages 40-and-over) award winners for the men were Steven Smith, 47, of Hampton (18:13), Paul Pelletier, 51, of Williamsburg (19:16) and Craig Hymes, 54, of Yorktown (19:21). For the women the Masters top three were Debbie McLaughlin, 51, of Williamsburg (20:53), Jill Rumple, 40, of Gainesville (21:20) and Susan Anton, 47, of Williamsburg (22:14).
The mid-size race in Williamsburg was the similarly-named Big Turkey Burn 5K, held on a loop course within New Town, 2 miles away. The organizers for that inaugural race were Mettle Events, who previously had timed the Blue Talon race from 2008 to 2015, before going their separate ways. There were 494 registrants for the 5K run, 39 for the 5K walk, and 44 for the kids run, with 366 finishers in the 5K run, 27 in the 5K walk, and 27 in the fun run.
The winner by almost two minutes was Matthew Hrncir, 18, of Toano, timed in 17:06, and followed by Randy Shelton, 41, of Mechanicsville (18:57) and Brad Johnson, 25, of Yorktown (19:03). The most impressive performance was by women's winner Kate Leugers, 27, of Austin, Texas, timed in 19:03, two minutes ahead of Sami Orange, 33, of San Diego (21:02) and Hannah Hrncir, 18, of Toano (21:05). The first Williamsburg finisher was Guy Falcione, 17, 14th overall in 21:38.
The small race in Williamsburg, with just over 100 participants, was the fourth annual Saint Bede Turkey Trot, approximately a 5K, and three loops of the Catholic church's parking lot (off Ironbound Road) for the free, informal, family-oriented fun run. Awards were homemade pies to the top two in five separate age groups, and the furthest traveled. The men's and women's winners were Cameron Wojcieszak and Hannah Preisser.
The Peninsula Track Club organized and timed the second annual Fast Before the Feast 5K at Mariner's Museum, benefiting the Peninsula Food Bank, and the successor race to the annual Toys For Tots 10K and 5K, at one time the only Thanksgiving morning race on the Peninsula, including Williamsburg. There were a total of 818 entrants and 701 finishers in the 5K. The leading runners for the men were Paul Speight, 30, of Hampton (18:11), William Prillaman, 16, of Newport News (18:32) and Parry Klages, 37, of Newport News (18:45). For the women the top three were Jackie Hoffman, 23, of Chesapeake (21:01), Grace Prillaman, 19, of Newport News (21:56) and Emily Honeycutt, 25, of Newport News (22:18). The Smithfield 5K had over 300 finishers.
The Blue Talon top two, Otstot and Bray, have been among the fastest Peninsula runners for years. They caught the early leaders in the first mile, and took control of the race on DOG Street and around the Capitol Building, covering the first mile in 5:00. Bray assumed the lead at the Governor's Palace loop, down Scotland Street and around the football stadium, with the second mile in 5:10.
"I decided that my best bet to break him was to really test him on the two hills, one by the dining hall, and then the final long uphill leading to Richmond Road," Otstot said.
Bray stayed with Otstot on the first hill surge, but the second surge won the race for Otstot. "It was one of those moves where you just pray that he isn't strong enough to come with you because if he does, you don't have any gears left to use at the end," said Otstot who won by just four seconds, 15:52 to 15:56, the final mile covered in 4:56.
Bray has been busy in 2016, commenting, "In the last year, I have had a lot going on. I changed positions professionally and am currently working for CHKD as a sports medicine physical therapist supervisor. I made a trip home to Australia in June/July for four weeks. Since Shamrock, I have been focusing on building an aerobic base as I was continually getting injured. I only recently returned to racing in November at the VCU Health 8K in Richmond (15th overall in 25:41). Main focus for the upcoming year is to keep healthy, continue to increase mileage and race more frequently."