Sudbury's Thanksgiving trail race returns

The gloomy weather didn’t stop people from taking part in the 2021 Turkey Gobbler Trail Run in Sudbury on Sunday.

The event saw 225 participants hit the trails in 8-, 3.5- and 1-kilometre races. Due to current physical distancing guidelines, the event had to be separated into waves. While event organizers said it’s not the big race people are used to -- despite most people being double vaccinated and the loosening of restrictions -- it’s at least a much different feel than the 2020 event.

"Last year, we had five wave starts and then we sent people off one minute at a time. This year, to get a little bit closer to that race feeling, I mean in that scenario some people are just out there for an hour and 15 minutes and never see another human being, so what we’ve done is we’re doing mass starts within the waves. So the waves are 35-50 people and we’re sending them all out together," said Neil Phipps, the event organizer.

Many races like this have moved to virtual events over the last 18 months, however, Phipps said because of its size and being outside, the event can be done safely.

"We’re a little lucky because we’re so small. It’s easier for us to do that. The big ones, the Boston Marathons, the thousands of people, those are not manageable at this point, but our little event, they’re all outdoors, are all heavily spaced out and our numbers are relatively small so we’re able to manage it and give people that experience that has been missing for a couple years," he said.

All of the proceeds from the event go to support the junior Nordic racing team based at the Walden Cross Country club. Phipps said the event will likely raise between $2,500 to $3,000, which will go to support travel, equipment, and coaching costs.

Some people told CTV News they participated to challenge themselves physically, while others wanted to support the cause.

"I’d say it’s very important to build up that community, especially I think that cross country skiing has, over the pandemic, has seen a dramatic increase. So I’m always happy to come out to these events and promote the sport," said Augustin Marks De Chabris, a race participant.

"I used to be a part of the Walden Nordic Ski Club and this is a fundraiser for the Nordic ski club. And the rest of my family was doing it so it’s kind of like a family tradition for us to come out and do this event every year," said Emily Marcolini, an 8-kilometre race participant.

The event has been running for over 10 years at the Walden Cross Country club. Organizers said they are happy with this year's event and hope restrictions ease even more for next year's event so they can welcome even more participants.