Races are full of stories.

The 16th annual CenturyLink Turkey Trot, a 5K run/walk held in Carlisle for the past 16 years, has its own story of volunteers who come together to organize a Thanksgiving Day run to benefit the Carlisle Family YMCA.

Then, there’s the stories of the runners.

Take Dee Danser. Her story begins last May when she weighed 270 pounds, and decided it was time for a change. She started a physician-supervised weight loss program, but couldn’t get below a size 20.

In July, she decided to start running, and went to Appalachian Running Company to get shoes. She signed up for their First Steps running program for women, a decision she calls “life changing.”

In six weeks of running, she dropped to a size 16, has lost 76 pounds and crossed the line at the Turkey Trot in just under 38 minutes to hugs from friends and family, including her mother who drove in from New Jersey to cheer her on.

“I’m 57 years old, and this is proof that you can change your life at any time,” Danser said.

This isn’t the end of Danser’s adventures. She plans to climb Kilimanjaro with her sister next year.

“Don’t give up,” she said.”If you don’t like where you’re going, just change.”

Remember the fallen

Runners in the “wear blue: run to remember” group bring the stories of fallen service members to their monthly runs at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center as well as to local races.

Loretta Witkowski said about 20 members of the group had signed up to run in the Turkey Trot. On the first Saturday of each month, they meet to call out the names of the service members who were killed on that date. Then, they read the names of service members who have personal connections to those in the group before heading out on a run or walk “to bring the community and the service members together” and offer healing, Witkowski said.

“We also participate in the local runs, the bigger races. In my opinion, it’s a way that service members aren’t forgotten,” she said.

For the Thanksgiving Day race, Witkowski brought the names of service members who had been killed on Nov. 23 since 2002.

Through the entire race, she carried a United States flag adorned with black ribbons bearing the names of the service members for whom they run.

Quinn Wasko, 20, won the race with a time of 16:07 while Catherine Campbell, 27, was the top female finisher with a time of 19:05.

While the runners are on the course, another story unfolds in the approximately 12-minute gap between the time the last of the walkers crosses the start line to the time the fastest runner crosses the finish line.


One team transforms the start line to the finish line. Starting corrals disappear as the awards are placed out on a table. A team of about 20 volunteers set up tables on which they place all the post-race food for runners.

About 75 volunteers come together to make the race happen.

Brittany Rose, camp director for the YMCA, said there is a meeting before the race to let all the volunteers know what will happen during the race. Granola bars are pre-staged and bananas separated from their bunches to allow for faster post-race pick-up.

“As soon as that last walker goes, we break from that meeting. Everybody designates an area, and we just roll it out,” Rose said.

This year, the YMCA also handed out cowbells to those near the finish line to cheer the competitors through the final steps of the race.

“It makes for a really nice atmosphere when they’re leaving and when they’re coming back to make a lot of noise and really cheer for them,” Rose said.

Jay Cattron, race director and physical and membership director at the YMCA, said about 2,750 runners and walkers participated in this year’s race.

“It’s a great turnout and a great day,” said Marcia Drozdowski, executive director of the YMCA as she thanked the sponsors and the volunteers for their work on the race.

“It really is a great, fun event, and we’re happy to do it,” she said.

Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.