On the fourth Thursday of every November, a vast number of Americans can be found sharing the same activities—cooking, eating, watching the Macy’s Parade, eating, watching football, and eating some more.  After all, Thanksgiving is about gratitude, family and of course the food. Lots of food.  While most of us prepare for the feast by donning our most elastic pants, another group of people will be donning running shoes and Under Armor.  No, they’re not practicing for the Black Friday shopping sprints.  They are running (or walking) in the Parkersburg Turkey Trot, West Virginia’s largest road race and a thirty-five year tradition.

The Parkersburg Turkey Trot is a friendly competition on a three mile “out & back” course.   The 3,000 plus participants include friends and family members who return year after year, even from distant states.  The success of the race can be credited to the hard work and enthusiasm of its volunteers, members of the River City Runners & Walkers.

Last year at the Parkersburg Turkey Trot.

Since 1981, the non-profit River City Runners and Walkers (RCRW) club has promoted road racing, running and walking as a sport for recreation and competition to benefit health, fitness and quality of life.  According to president Sharon Marks, the club boasts over 800 members and has an active Board of nineteen members.  Sharon reports that RCRW is involved in over 35 races in the Mid Ohio Valley including the prestigious Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon.

Why join a club?  Isn’t running or fitness walking something we can do on our own?  While it’s certainly possible to go the solitary route (pun intended) joining a club offers the support and shared experience that can help you develop a personal program and make it part of your lifestyle.  The River City Runners & Walkers welcome people at any level of skill and experience.  Just starting out and feeling a bit intimidated?  You can benefit by joining their Beginning Running and Walking Clinic, a 10 week program to help you successfully complete a 5k.

For runners looking for a structured program and motivation, RCRW sponsors a free running and walking series.  Participants must enter 10 of the series races to be eligible for an award presented at the annual banquet.  There are also races and a series for kids, and the club provides several scholarships to local high school students.

To provide members the information and personal connections they need to stay motivated, the RCRW maintains an active Facebook page and website. Members can link to races, events, and schedules and offer kudos and support to fellow runners/ walkers.  A newsletter edited by Donna Graham is published bimonthly and each issue includes a message from Marks.  According to Marks, the RCRW isn’t “just a running/walking club, we are family…If you are part of the club, you are never alone”

Part of the River City Runners and Walkers Club Family.

Part of the River City Runners and Walkers Club Family.

Member Kristin Meeks echoes that sentiment.  Meeks joined the club several years ago to help train for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon.  She takes advantage of the mapped routes on the website, the Facebook group and the camaraderie offered by her fellow members. “When I first started running one thing I loved the most was there was always someone at my pace. I was motivated by their encouraging words, challenged by the speed of the veteran runners and inspired by each new runner that joins our group.”

For Samantha Clements, it was her first 5k that introduced her to the River City Runners & Walkers. As a first time participant, Clements was nervous and uncertain if she would be able to successfully complete the race.  But after the first half, she found herself being encouraged by strangers and cheered on to the finish line.   

“It made me feel happy that these complete strangers to me were suddenly the most encouraging people I had ever met. It made me want to run faster and before I knew it I was crossing the finish line with a huge smile on my face… I knew after this race I wanted to continue with running, I wanted to be a part of the wonderful group of people who are all here supporting everyone, whether you are the first person across the line or the last person.”

After the race Clements searched online for more information about the friendly group she had encountered and became yet another member of the “family”.

If exercise and a healthier lifestyle were part of your New Year’s resolutions take heart—you’re only eleven months late getting started!  If you can run or walk then you can embark on a new fitness routine that will reward you with a healthier heart and stronger body.  The River City Runners & Walkers can provide the support, friendship and motivation to help you achieve your goals.  If you’re ready to burn some calories before the big Thanksgiving feast, you can register for the Turkey Trot.  To learn more about the RCRW and the programs offered, visit their website.