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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Thanksgiving Day race has 2,000 runners trying to beat the mayor’s time

Jan 05, 2023 11:09AM ● By Jolene Croasmun

Many came out to beat the mayor at the annual Run Now, Gobble Later Thanksgiving Day 5k race in Cottonwood Heights. (Jolene Croasmun/City Journals)

Thanksgiving Day was sunny and cold but over 2,000 runners came out to beat the mayor in the annual Run First, Gobble Later 5k race held in Cottonwood Heights.

As an added bonus, Cottonwood Heights’ current mayor, Mike Weichers and former mayor, Mike Peterson ran the race. This was the 38th annual 5k race on Thanksgiving Day and the 15th race to beat the mayor.

Kristen Jensen, who works at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center, said 2,000 racers signed up for the event and it sold out.

“To keep track and record the time, the runners have a chip on their bibs and when they cross over the finish line, their time is recorded,” Jensen said. “We have five boxes of medals to give out and the medals say, ‘I’m Faster Than The Mayor!’ Anyone that beats Mayor Weichers gets a medal.”

Cottonwood Heights Councilmember Scott Bracken said, “The most asked question about the race is, ‘How fast is the mayor?’ and when the mayor was Mike Peterson, I could tell you.” Bracken did not know how fast the current mayor could run. This question about the mayor’s running speed had become a popular topic of conversation at the rec center.

Bracken was working with the youth council to run this race. Bracken laughed loudly when he was asked if he had run the race before. “My wife has, I am here helping with the youth council,” he said. 

Youth councilmembers, Alec, Quincy, Jackie and Saerichai handed out the medals once the runners crossed the finish line. Runners were eligible for a medal if they beat just the current mayor.

Coming in first place was Shiva Rajbhandari, from Boise, Idaho. He ran the 5k in 16.55 minutes. “I have run this race three times. I am from Boise, Idaho. My family is here in Cottonwood Heights,” Rajbhandari said.

Second and third place went to Samuel Bennett and Ammon Atamanczyk respectively.

Mayor Weichers finished 937th in the race so there were 936 runners eligible to take home a medal.

“I have run this race three or four times before. I am planning on eating lots of turkey now that the race is over,” the mayor said. 

This was the 38th year to run this race for Cottonwood Heights' former mayor Peterson. Once across the finish line Peterson said, “I ran the whole way! Later I will have ice, a little turkey, rest with the family and banana cream pie.” 

Councilmember Doug Petersen was also assisting with the race. Petersen stated that, “Mayor Mike Peterson started this race years ago and was doing really well and is still running.” 

To put participants in the festive mood, volunteer Grace Benham stood on the street dressed as a turkey and helped direct people. This was Benham’s first time working the race. Asked if it was her idea to dress as a turkey, Benham smiled and said, “No, but I volunteered.”

Participants running with strollers and dogs were part of the race but they were at the end of the crowd. Anyone wanting to walk in the race had a designated start area after the runners.

Once the racers crossed the finish line, the question of what was on the menu was asked and some participants responded with “A good old-fashioned meal.”

One finishing runner quipped, “Creating the Thanksgiving meal is more of a marathon than the 5k!”