Shawnee State University student Steven Adams was simply looking at running in Grove City's seventh annual Thanksgiving Wattle 5K run/walk as a way to prepare for the indoor track season.

"All I was trying to do was go for my personal best and see what happened," said Adams, 20, of Ashville.

Adams ended up doing more than his personal best. He was the top finisher in the seventh annual Wattle, held Nov. 22, posting a time of 15:38, or 5:02 per mile.

"I wasn't expecting to win," he said. "It was really exciting crossing the finish line first."

Adams said he began playing soccer in middle school but was drawn to running.

"I like the way you're able to challenge yourself" in track and field, he said.

The top female runner was Ariel Young, 22, of Dublin, who finished with a time of 17:54.

Young is a senior at Ohio Christian University and is a member of the school's track and field and cross country teams.

The day's cold weather had many participants waiting until the last minute to leave the warmth of their vehicles and head to the starting line.

One participant who was outside early was Jennifer Swartzmiller of Grove City.

Swartzmiller and her daughter, Ella, 14, ran in the 5K race while her daughter, Erin, 9, and son, Evan, 5, took part in the Primrose Children Run, which gave youngsters a chance to sprint 200 yards down Lamplighter Drive to the finish line.

"This is such a great event because everyone in the family can get involved," Swartzmiller said. "I've run in the 5K race before, but this is Ella's first time. It will be fun to run together."

The Wattle is an ideal way to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday, she said.

"First you chase the turkey (among the event's costumed mascots), then you can go eat the turkey," Swartzmiller said. "When you run in the morning, it's easier to eat all you want later on without as much guilt."

It wasn't just the mascots who were in costume.

Central Crossing High School senior C.J. Deerman ran the 5K race dressed as a dinosaur.

"I just like making people laugh," he said of his attire.

Deerman has participated in the event the past five years and this marked the second time he came dressed as a T-Rex.

"The costume's not too heavy, so it doesn't really slow you down," he said. "Probably the thing I was most concerned about was not getting a shin splint."

Deerman said he loves the event.

"It's just the whole atmosphere," he said. "It's fun having people lined up as you finish cheering you on."

This year's Wattle included a new event: the Rolling Rotisserie, a 12-mile bicycle ride around Grove City with police bicycle support.

"We wanted to include a bike ride to give even more people -- those who really aren't into running -- an opportunity to take part in the Wattle," said Mark Sigrist, event director. "Each year we do a systematic review of things and see if there are ways we can improve the Wattle for the following year."

The bicycle ride was non-competitive, he said.

"We just wanted to give people a safe route through the community," Sigrist said. "That's why we made sure to include the police support."

When combining all of the Wattle's events, including the 5K race, bike ride, children's run and Turkey Leg 100 event for athletes with disabilities, more than 2,000 people signed up to participate, he said.

The event raised more than $23,000 for the Grove City Food Pantry.

Prior to the 5K race, the event's annual Lifetime Impact Award was presented to Raymond Sheridan, the owner of Sheridan Dental on Park Street in Grove City.

Sheridan was honored for his past involvement with the Boy Scouts of America and his participation in charitable activities, including coordinating weekend distribution of food to the homeless on Columbus' West Side through the Mary's Hands group. He also has helped in leading a yearly trip to Cambodia where he and other members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church spend time with orphaned children.

Sheridan also participates in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic to provide dental services to local residents.

The Wattle took action this year to have its own impact on the community by going green.

"When you see the condition of our environment, it just isn't responsible to hand out plastic water bottles and cups to our runners," Sigrist said. "So starting this year, we'll be using compostable cups and handing them out to the participants when they finish."

Participants were asked to dispose of the cups and food scraps in a compostable container placed near the finish line, he said.

Compostable cups also were available at the water station along the race course.

Runners who brought their own reusable cups could sign up for a raffle with various prizes, Sigrist said.

"If you think about it, when you have a party at your house, you try to use recyclables and have people put them in a container or bag when they're done with them," he said. "We wanted to do the same for our party, and leave no trace of our event in our community."

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