BY MIGUEL MOLINA, Alachua Chronicle correspondent
GAINESVILLE, Fla – Lloyd Clarke Sports is putting on a new Thanksgiving Day event at a new location.
The 2022 Turkey Trot Trail 5k will happen on Nov. 24 at 8:30 a.m., featuring a new course. Registration is $35 per person until Nov. 23 at 11:59 p.m. and then $45 per person until 8:15 a.m. on the morning of the race. Participants can register at the event or online at runsignup.com.
Daniel Akers, the event organizer, says a similar race had been held in the past, but COVID-19 caused the sporting goods store to cancel its annual event for both 2020 and 2021.
“We didn’t ever want to stop doing it,” Akers said. “COVID kind of threw a monkey wrench into everything.” Due to complications from the coronavirus, Tacachale Center, the previous location for the annual event, is no longer capable of hosting because of staff issues. So organizers made Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary (CCFS) the venue for this year’s race.
CCFS has a 210-acre farm sanctuary and wildlife preserve. Akers says he had the opportunity to tour the sanctuary and could see the potential for a 5k course. The location has several trails that have been used for cycling events, and parts of those trails have been used to create the 5k trail for the race. The course mainly consists of grass-type service roads, which are used to go from pasture to pasture. Most of the trails used in the course go through a pine forest and have several twists and turns. There are a few bridge crossings on the course, but the route is primarily soft ground and trail.
Participants will be able to see some cows and pigs while running on the path. Akers says what makes this trail race special is that the course is fully on the trail. Other local trail races tend to use roads or other pavements in order to meet distance requirements. Another benefit of using the CCFS as the race venue is that the sanctuary is private property, which means there is no need for permits or traffic control.
Akers says he expects 700 fewer people this year because this event only has the 5k race. In 2019, the event had over 1,000 people, split between the 5k and 10k races. However, a 10k race is something that might happen in next year’s event.
The 5k is both a competitive and fun race. For competitive purposes, the event will be “chip-timed,” which means each person is digitally timed from the moment he or she starts to the moment he or she finishes. Prizes will be given out to the top three male and female finishers at the ceremony at 9:30 a.m. The first male and female runners to finish will receive a Theragun Mini. Second-place winners will receive an Amphipod hydration belt, and third-place finishers get a Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp. There is another prize category titled “Masters” that is given to the first male and female runners to finish who are 40 years old or older. The winners will receive a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.
Vegan snack bags will be provided at the end of the race because the sanctuary is a vegan property; the bags will include fruits, peanuts, and cookies.
Chris Amerman, co-founder and sanctuary director of Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary, says that after the ceremony, people will have the opportunity to feed the cows and rub the bellies of the pigs. The sanctuary is always looking to educate people about its mission and animals. When Lloyd Clarke Sports brought up the idea of having a 5k race at the sanctuary, CCFS accepted.
Amerman says the race will benefit the sanctuary by increasing potential volunteers and donors. With the runners being exposed to the sanctuary’s animals and environment, they might be inclined to learn more about the mission and provide some help.
A portion of the registration money will be donated to the sanctuary. The funds go towards animal feed, veterinary care, and employees. Another way the donations are used is for infrastructure projects. For example, the sanctuary is remodeling one of its sheds and turning it into an Airbnb location. This will allow people to temporarily live at the sanctuary and enjoy an immersive experience with the animals.