OCEAN CITY — Sue Ayres and her brother-in-law John Mahan had a bet going: Whoever finished The Fast and Furriest 5K Turkey Trot Thanksgiving morning first would make breakfast the next morning.

Ayres, of Glenmoore, Pa., wearing a rainbow-colored feather hat, said she was the faster runner. Mahan, of Chester Springs, Pa., said he dreaded the thought of having to cook breakfast for Ayres’ two children and husband. 

Regardless of who won, both said the time they spent exercising before the day’s Thanksgiving meal would help prevent any guilt later.

“It’s a way to spend time with your family and you can eat as much as you want later,” Ayres said. 

Spending Thanksgiving morning running a few miles has become an increasingly popular part of turkey day. The Ocean City Thanksgiving Day race, which has gone through several incarnations, began six years ago with about 100 runners, organizer Louise Nunan said last week. 

With nearly 600 participants running the 5K race as well as a kids mile race, organizers said this year’s run was the largest in its history.

Nunan said she now sees families that have made the event part of their holiday tradition, coming year after year. She even made the start time a little earlier to ensure runners could attend the race without being late without being late to some of the area’s high school football games.

“It’s neat to see the same people over and over again,” she said last week. 

The event was a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Ocean City and some participants brought pet supplies for the shelter Thursday. This year, Nunan said, more people registered early, though she wasn’t sure if that was because runners wanted to ensure they received a T-shirt. Then on race day, so many people were in line to pick up their numbers or register for the run that the start was delayed by nearly 20 minutes.

Cape May Court House resident Cesar Santiago said Thursday’s 5K race on the Ocean City Boardwalk was the second time he’s run on Thanksgiving and said he now considers the event a tradition. The run, Santiago said, is a good way “to burn off the fat before the meal.”

Santiago’s friend and co-worker, Chad Bailey, of Hammonton, joined him Thursday morning. Both of them wore cardboard pilgrim hats to add a festive touch. “I don’t expect to be moving that fast,” Santiago said, when asked if he was concerned the hat might blow off during the run. 

Running a “fun” race on Thanksgiving morning gave Upper Township resident Carrie Merritt a chance to relax and enjoy the day rather than focus on winning. Merritt, who competes at a high level in triathlons, was at the race with her immediate and extended family, all of whom were running as well. “It’s fun to be running without feeling like it’s a race, and it’s nice to be with our families doing it,” Merritt said.

Her nephew, Merritt Connolly, 11, piped in: “And then we get to eat as much as we want!”

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