A record-breaking crowd of runners, walkers and people who just wanted to show their Thanksgiving spirit braved the chilly, rainy weather Thursday to participate in the 112th annual running of the YMCA Buffalo Niagara's Turkey Trot.
Almost 9,000 people ran the 4.97-mile trot, which is the oldest consecutively run footrace in North America, even older than the Boston Marathon, said John D. Murray, president of the YMCA Buffalo Niagara.
The winner was 24-year-old Kyle Pawlaczyk, an Orchard Park native who finished in 24 minutes, 49 seconds. He has run in the race the past eight or nine years, he said, but this is his first time winning.
"It's really a lot of fun being here. That's why I do it," he said. "It feels good to win."
The overall female winner was 24-year-old Aileen Hoak of Hamburg, who completed the race in 28 minutes, 43 seconds. It was her first time winning even though she's been participating since she was 9.
"Coming down here every Thanksgiving is a family tradition. We kick off our Thanksgiving dinner here," she said, adding that her parents, cousins and uncle came out to cheer her on.
Like Hoak's, many families make the annual event a family tradition.
The Arnolds live in the University District, and the three generations of runners from that family ran this year's race.
"It's about community, tradition and helping others," said Ibrahim Arnold, grandfather of Alise Sanchez, 14, who ran the race alongside her dad, Paul.
The Evans family of the Town of Tonawanda has been cheering from the sidelines for the past 12 years.
"We don't run the race, never have, but we come down just to cheer them on," said Randall Evans.
A record number of 8,750 people ran the race, up from 8,350 last year, said YMCA spokeswoman Kathy Vallone. That marks a big difference from the first Turkey Trot held in 1896, when six runners participated.
The number of first-time participants also has grown over the past five years, Murray said. He likened the increasing popularity of the race to the Allentown Arts Festival, the Taste of Buffalo or the Erie County Fair.
"It's flat-out tradition. They're Buffalo gigs," he said.
"People are jazzed up," said Vallone. "Considering the weather, you'd think they'd be doom and gloom, but nothing seems to stop them."
While many participated for the fun of it, the Turkey Trot is a qualifying race for other races such as the Boston Marathon, Vallone said, and many of the athletes -- called master runners -- participated to earn times that will help establish their starting positions in those races.
One of those, Rebecca Carroll of Orchard Park, completed the race in 30 minutes and 50 seconds, making her the winner among the female master runners, said Vallone.
Chris Mattingly of Orchard Park was the fastest male master runner, Vallone said, finishing the race in 26 minutes and 8 seconds.
About $100,000 was raised from the race, and the proceeds will help provide financial assistance for children and families who are unable to afford YMCA programs and services, and to underwrite programs such as before- and after-school child care. YMCA Buffalo Niagara serves more than 50,000 people annually in Western New York.
"The race is so much more than a fun way to start the holiday," Anne Reif, YMCA's financial director, said in a prepared statement. "Because so many people have decided to make [it] a part of their Thanksgiving Day tradition, countless kids can participate in summer camp, numerous working parents have been assured their children are safe and productive during after-school hours with the School Age Child Care program, and individuals of all ages have been able to live healthier lifestyles with the fitness, health and wellness programs."