The number of runners, most of whom participated in the 5-kilometer race, was expected to surpass the record of 9,453 that was set in 2011. MUST set a goal of having 10,000 runners and raising $375,000. While final financial figures weren’t in, officials figured the monetary goal would be met as well.
“We’re very, very thankful for all the people who made this part of their Thanksgiving,” said MUST CEO Dr. Ike Reighard.
The first race, the 10-K, started at 8 a.m., with Marietta Daily Journal Publisher Otis Brumby III firing the starter’s pistol. The Journal, the Cherokee Tribune’s sister paper, is the title sponsor of the Gobble Jog.
The event helps MUST provide food, clothing, shelter and jobs for 34,000 people a year in Cobb and Cherokee counties, Reighard said. About half of them are children. Later on Thursday, MUST provided a Thanksgiving meal to 500 people at its Elizabeth Inn shelter.
Reighard, who is also senior pastor at Piedmont Church, credited an improved social media campaign and great weather for the turnout. In an office pool, Reighard guessed the race would have 10,777 competitors; an amount he felt would be close to the actual number.
“They tell me I’m in charge of the weather, but I say I’m just in sales. But today was a beautiful morning,” he said standing in Glover Park, where few clouds could be seen in the sky above.
Many of the runners, joggers and walkers made the event a family affair. Raymond Dilbeck, 64, said he has attended the race for several years to watch his daughter, Christy Hardman, run. But this year the Marietta resident decided to try the 1-K himself, along with his two daughters, son-in-law and grandchildren.
“She talked me into it,” Dilbeck said of his daughter. “It’s a good cause and a family thing.”
Terry Burks, 63, brought her daughters Amy Dear, 37, and Kelli Burks, 33, to the 5-K. While they have participated in other road races, it was the Alpharetta family’s first time in the Gobble Jog.
“We’re trying to make it a family tradition and do it every year,” Terry Burks said. “Then we can eat what we want to later.”
The family wasn’t dissuaded by the large crowds.
“I like running with more people,” Kelli Burks said. “It keeps you going longer.”
Some brought the four-legged members of their family, as well. Scott Anderson, 59, and his wife Sandra, 62, brought their dogs Carly and Ellie along. Scott Anderson said the dogs are used for therapy with a group called Happy Trails and work with seniors in assisted living facilities.
“They love it,” he said of the dogs, while waiting for his wife and Ellie to arrive at the finish line. “They love to do the route and they’re not afraid of all the feet. It’s excellent training to have them socialize with people.”
Sandra Anderson said the dogs love the spirit of the Gobble Jog.
“It’s just wonderful and it’s a beautiful day,” the Marietta resident said. “The dogs love it and we love it.”
Alisa Black, also of Marietta, was one of eight family members at the Gobble Jog, each wearing bright-orange T-shirts.
“We all like to come out and run, so we can eat that much more food,” said Black, 22. “It gets you up early, so you don’t sleep all day. It’s a lot of fun and we’re all competitive.”
Cobb Chairman Tim Lee played double duty at the Gobble Jog, riding in the pace car that led the 10-K, then running with his family in the 5-K.
“We all survived, it was great,” Lee said. “It was a great day for Marietta and Cobb County.”
Reighard said his own family had four generations at the Gobble Jog. The event is a chance to celebrate after lots of work.
“We start planning months ahead, and when it finally gets here, quite honestly, it’s a relief,” he said. “We knew pretty early on that this was going to be a record deal.”
Reighard took time to speak to the family of Scotty Gill, a 53-year-old Paulding County resident who collapsed while crossing the finish line at last year’s race and died later that day. Family members were brought to tears after Reighard presented them with a jersey with the number Gill wore, which has since been retired from the race.