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Thanksgiving 5K goes virtual for COVID-19 safety

MARSHALL — Organizers of the annual Gobble Wobble 5K had been trying to roll with the punches this year, making changes to help keep participants safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But after the latest executive order from Gov. Tim Walz, they had to change things up some more.

This year, the Marshall Area YMCA won’t be holding an in-person race on Thanksgiving day. Instead, participants can complete a virtual 5K at their own pace and at a safe social distance.

“We actually made it kind of wide open,” said Matt Konrad, one of the organizers of this year’s Gobble Wobble.

“Before the governor made his announcement, we were preparing to have a safe event,” Konrad said. Initially, the race was planned to have chip timers, and runners would be spread out in groups of 10 or fewer, starting at staggered times. “It would be like an open race.”

However, the governor’s newest order meant the Y couldn’t host a gathering of people at all. So now, individual runners will be able to pick up their race gear, and run the route on their own on Thursday and Friday.

Konrad said registered runners will be picking up their race bags and hoodies through the end of the day today. On Thanksgiving day, the race route will be marked out for runners with paint or chalk.

“The routes are going to remain the same,” with the race starting near the intersection of A Street and Saratoga Street and ending in the YMCA parking lot, Konrad said. “And you can run as you are able to run the event.”

When runners finish the Gobble Wobble, they’re encouraged to enter their results in a Google form. The final results will be emailed out to participants on Saturday evening. While the pandemic means runners won’t be able to gather for competition, there’s still a chance to celebrate and root for each other, Konrad said. Race participants are encouraged to share a photo of themselves finishing the race on the Marshall Area YMCA Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/MarshallGobbleWobble.

Konrad said the number of registered runners this year is around 161 — about half the normal levels of participation in the race. However, he said, that’s not bad news. A smaller crowd means that people are less likely to form big groups, and more likely to keep a safe social distance while finishing the race.

“We were actually really pleased with how it turned out,” Konrad said. Plus, he said, “It’s nice to be able to have something.”

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