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5th annual Turkey Trot rocks with record field

Ben LeBlanc nears the finish. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — The Bitters & Bones Turkey Trot just keeps getting bigger and better.

On Thursday, the 5k race was held for the fifth straight time on Thanksgiving Day in Saranac Lake, and unlike a year ago when the temperatures were in negative digits, the weather turned out to be pretty ideal for running on a late November Day.

The event drew its biggest field ever — a cast of more than 300 runners and walkers and quite a few pets — and it also brought in more than $20,000 for local charities the Saranac Lake Student Needs Fund and the Saranac Lake Interfaith Food Pantry.

“We had 300 race bibs. We burned through those and then burned through another 15,” said John Williams of Bitters & Bones. “That would be a record. I can’t tell you definitively how many we had because people were putting them on their dogs and what have you, but it’s safe to say we had more than 300.

“I said it to the folks who were here during the auction after the race, ‘Being from a small town like this, it’s just extremely heartwarming to see a village rally around itself,'” Williams continued. “People, businesses gave $1,000. That’s a huge amount of money. They did it because they knew it was going to a good cause, and they did it because they knew it was going to better the village.

Participants gather in front of Bitters & Bones early Thursday morning prior to the 5k Turkey Trot. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“I’m just incredibly proud to be a part of this community and really give people the opportunity to come out and enjoy the day before they go home and eat turkey and watch football.”

The race started in front of Bitters & Bones on Broadway and followed a round-trip course to Casa Del Sol on Lake Flower Avenue and back to the bar and restaurant.

Two former Saranac Lake cross country standouts, Ben LeBlanc and Caroline Dodd, raced to the men’s and women’s titles, and Jake Kollmer was the fastest finisher among the youngsters who were 12 and under.

LeBlanc was well ahead of the rest of the pack on the way to finishing first overall in a time of 17 minutes, 19 seconds. Dodd won the women’s title in 21 minutes.

After being sidelined with injuries for past Bitters & Bones turkey trots, LeBlanc said he was excited to finally run in the race this time around.

Runners and walkers leave the start line Thursday morning. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“Today went alright. It was just hard going into the wind the last mile and a half or so,” said LeBlanc, who participated in the New York City Marathon earlier this month as a pace runner. “Usually I’m home for this race but I’ve always been injured. This was the first time I’ve done this.”

LeBlanc attends the University of Vermont and plans to graduate with a doctorate degree early next year.

“I always enjoy coming back for these hometown races, and I was finally healthy,” LeBlanc said, adding that it was “fun to win.”

Chris Klemm, a senior at Norwich University who has relatives in Saranac Lake, ran in shorts and was the fourth place finisher overall. “I just ran 10 miles yesterday. I haven’t done a 5k in god knows how long, so I was happy to come out; had a fun time.”