CRYSTAL LAKE – There were 35 runners in the first Thanksgiving Day 5K Run/Walk at Lippold Park 18 years ago.
Last year, more than 1,000 people burned some calories in the morning before heading home for a feast.
They didn’t just show up to the park to run, however. They raised $5,692 for the Crystal Lake Food Pantry and collected 1,500 pounds of food.
The race is put on by the Hillstriders Running Club, which has about 100 members. They come out and help collect donations on race day.
“It’s become a family tradition in Crystal Lake,” Hillstriders Vice President Jerry Sullivan said. “People come out with dogs, strollers and kids. It’s not a highly stressful race. You get some college kids coming out to run while they’re on break.”
The race begins a 8 a.m. sharp whether there’s rain, sleet, snow or sun, and has no official entry fee. Participants are asked to bring cash or food donations that go to the food pantry.
It is recommended that participants donate money to food pantries rather than food. That’s because a pantry often can get six or seven times the food with cash than it would through a food donation, Sullivan said.
In 2016, 99.5 percent of every dollar donated to the Crystal Lake Food Pantry was spent on food and programs, according to CLfoodpantry.com. Administrative costs were only 0.5 percent.
People can register for the race from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the The Running Depot, 30 N. Williams St. H., in downtown Crystal Lake, and from 6 to 7:30 a.m. Thursday at Lippold Park, 851 Route 176, Crystal Lake, before the race. Those interested will be asked to sign a waiver to participate. The course is flat and mostly crushed limestone, according to Hillstriders.com.
The Running Depot will award $100 gift certificates to both the first-place male and female finishers.