FORT MYERS, Fla. — More than 2,000 avid runners took to the pavement Thursday morning for the 43rd Annual Turkey Trot in Downtown Fort Myers.
The race is organized by the Fort Myers Track Club and features a 5K race as well as a "Tot Trot" for younger runners.
There was some trepidation in the weeks leading up to the race that it would possibly be canceled or delayed.
"We were concerned that we wouldn't be able to have it and we wouldn't have a great turnout because of Ian," said track club vice president JeAnne Hertel.
But it was a rousing success, Hertel said, with 2,388 registered participants.
Some of the runners in that crowd, like Jess Edwards, say an event like this after the hurricane is special to see.
"A lot of people went through it really rough," Edwards observed. "Just seeing everyone here congregating for this local tradition made me feel like it was regular home."
Jamall Carroll, who is new to the area from the Virgin Islands, said it was the biggest group he's seen since Hurricane Ian.
"It's great to see the area cleaned up," he said. "It was an awesome event; I'm happy I took part in it."
For the second time in the race's history, start and finish lines are at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, with the 3-mile course designed to take participants through the southern portions of the neighborhood.
The starter's pistol fired at 7:30 a.m. The first runner crossed the finish line a mere 15 minutes later. A "tot trot" was held as well.
A virtual race is also being held for those who choose not to participate in person.
But those who did show up downtown said they were excited to do so, participating in tradition no matter what pace they finished at.
This year, many agreed, they truly had much to be thankful for.
"My family is here all the way from the Virgin Islands to visit me," said Carroll.
"Being injury-free, just getting back to it," remarked Edwards. "Seeing that everyone's happy today; we can all gather today for Thanksgiving and have a good time."
'I've got my son home, my husband's home recovering from shoulder replacement surgery," said Hertel. "I'm happy they're both healthy and I'm really thankful to have all these people show up."