In 2013, Michael Anne Butts and Cheryl Waters were driving to Indiana to run a half-marathon. In their conversation, Butts recalls, a two-part question arose:
“How can we bring a race to Dickson, and who can we help?”
From that discussion between the two friends, who had met several years earlier at First Baptist Church in Dickson, one of the area’s bigger annual events and more successful fundraisers emerged: the Give ’N Gobble 5k.
The Thanksgiving morning race in downtown Dickson is an all-volunteer effort, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Dickson County Help Center. This year, the run raised $35,000 for the Help Center, pushing the six-year total since the race’s inception past $165,000. That money pays for food, clothing and utility bills.
“We attribute our success to the Lord … and we pray for His guidance,” Butts said.
This year, there were 1,235 registrants, and nearly 1,100 showed, Butts said. That’s a better-than-expected 87 percent turnout, she said, noting that people who sign up are from all over the United States and there are any number of reasons some can’t make it.
Registrants each pay $35 in advance or $40 on race day, and there are nearly 30 corporate sponsors, including the Dickson Post.
“We plan this race all year long,” Butts said.
It’s an undertaking that involves a core committee and an army of volunteers some 75 strong. On race day they include people providing refreshments and selling T-shirts in Holland Park, where the race starts, as well the course marshals and those handling race-day signups. But the volunteers also include many behind the scenes.
There’s close coordination between race organizers and the Dickson Police Department for the road closures. The course has varied a little since the first race in 2014, though it’s always certified by USA Track & Field, the governing body in the sport. Music City Race Timing handles the results.
The race attracts elite runners, such as this year’s overall winner, Patrick Cheptoek. The 33-year-old Uganda native now living in Bowling Green, Ky., clocked a time of 15:41. The top female finisher was Gisela Olalde, 34, of Nashville, at 17:32.
Many participants are those who visit relatives in the Dickson area for the holiday, Waters said. This gives the event a reunion feeling, she said, because in many cases, members of an extended family run together.
Others prefer to look on rather than participate. The number of spectators this year appeared to number easily in the hundreds.
Before the horn blew at the starting line of this year’s race, County Mayor Bob Rial led everyone in prayer and Nikki Haley sang the national anthem. There was also a tribute to Jay Waters, Cheryl Waters’ husband who died in July.
In addition to awards for the top finishers, there were age-group winners recognized as well. Pies baked by Irene Hamm were awarded.
For all its success, the Give ’N Gobble 5k isn’t even the only race in downtown Dickson on Thanksgiving.
Associated with the race is an event for children known as the Turkey Chase Fun Run, which begins just before the 5k. Group by group, kids chase a person dressed as a turkey and try to pluck feathers from the costume.
That event involves a bit of planning, too. But it’s the 5k that really keeps Butts and others busy all year.
“We’re already planning next year’s race,” she said by phone Friday.