PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A river of runners — 7,700 strong — woke up early to wind their way through the North Shore and downtown on Thanksgiving morning.

The 26th Annual PNC YMCA Turkey Trot, presented by UnitedHealthcare, kicked off Thanksgiving morning at Federal Street.

“The Turkey Trot is so much more than just an opportunity to burn some calories before a big meal,” said Kevin Bolding, president and CEO, YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. “This race is about coming together as a community to be thankful for all that we have, and to help our neighbors who do not have enough to fill their family tables.”

For some, it’s about running a personal best, but for others, it’s an occasion not to be missed.

“Thanksgiving is about being with everybody and celebrating and being thankful,” runner Bethany Bowman, of Bloomfield, said. “And running brings everyone together, so it’s pretty awesome.”

Turkey-headed best friends Alita Marchetti and Angie Sporrer came with an ulterior motive.

“It’s about burning off the calories before you eat a big dinner,” Sporrer said.

“We run to eat,” Marchetti said. “That’s our philosophy.”

The proceeds from the Fun Run, the 5K and the 5-mile run benefit the YMCA’s Homerun for Hunger initiative, which provides hot meals, stocks pantries and supplies after-school programs for the needy.

The race features a chalkboard on which folks write their own personal reasons for gratitude. The draw of the good cause and the tradition brings out entire families year after year — and some leave no one behind at home.

“Of course it includes the dogs!” one participant said.

And regardless of talent, most make it to the finish line.

There are the thoroughbreds like Will Appman, formerly of the North Hills and now living in Hoboken, N.J., who came home to take the five-mile men’s title.

“Perfect conditions, a lot of good competition out here, it was a great day,” he said.

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