PARKERSBURG - There's a first time for everything and Thursday morning was the first time a runner in the Turkey Trot stopped and proposed to his girlfriend.
Alyssa Konz happily said yes when Tyler Cantley, 22, last year's winner of the annual race, asked her to be his bride.
Cantley said the two have been together for about three years and the last few months were a struggle for him to keep his plans a secret.
"I chose the Turkey Trot because I've been running for about nine years. Running is a big part of my life," he said. "I wanted to put my own twist on it."
Konz and Cantley are both graduates of Warren High School.
The bride-to-be was surprised.
"I wasn't expecting this today," a pleased Konz said.
Cantley is well-known in race circles as he has won The Parkersburg News and Sentinel 2-mile race for six straight years starting in 2006. He won the trot last year with a time of 15 minutes, 7 seconds.
He was nearing the finish line and would have come in fifth place had he not stopped to pop the question.
The Turkey Trot is ran every Thanksgiving morning and is among the largest races in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Thursday was the 34th running for the race.
About 3,000 people were registered to walk or run, event organizers said. About 300 people registered Thursday morning, adding to the 2,700 who were registered as of Wednesday night.
Runners and walkers of all ages were part of one of the largest crowds organizers said they have yet seen. Dog walkers and stroller pushers were still circling the park in the 3-mile race at around 10 a.m.
The event is all about getting people out to start a healthy day, said Sharon Marks, president of the River City Runners and Walkers Club. The race also is a social event and a chance for friends and family to reconnect.
"It's a time for people to see each other," she said. "A lot of people say they haven't seen each other all year."
She said the race keeps the river city runners club literally running for the next year. The race is sponsored by Camden Clark Medical Center, On The Run and Walk and the River City Runners and Walkers Club.
"It's great to see Parkersburg coming out and supporting a race that funds so many children's races and scholarships," she said.
The top three runners this year were sophomores at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. The team mates said the race was a great way to end their running season.
The winner, Breydon Gates, a Belpre native, told his friends about the race. It wasn't his first time at the Turkey Trot, but was his first time winning.
"We're from all over, we heard about it from our team mate," said third place finisher Joe Stewart from Crown City, Ohio.
The race experience is not only for those with a competitive edge.
Frequent runners Tony and Anissa Sellers brought their daughter, Alaina, along to get her involved in the sport.
They convinced one child to attend the event, the rest were asleep at home in Ellenboro.
"I have three brothers who weren't feeling it," said Alaina.
The race is an opportunity to exercise and family time, the Sellers said.
"We came out to get some exercise on Thanksgiving morning," Anissa said.
"And we get to spend time with our daughter," said father, Tony.