The race was expected to set new records for both the number of participants (close to 11,000) and funds raised (in excess of $375,000). By way of comparison, there were 1,400 runners at the first Gobble Jog in 2003, which raised $29,000.
And it has grown from just a 5K race to this year, a 10K race as well. Put in perspective, the 10,000 or so who ran this year give it status as one of the largest races held in Georgia and represent a throng roughly one-sixth the size of the 60,000-strong field that turns out each year for the massive Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on July 4.
But more importantly, the race was a huge funding shot in the arm for MUST Ministries, which provides food, clothing, shelter and jobs for 34,000 people a year each year in Cobb and Cherokee counties, about half of whom are children.
“We’re very, very thankful for all the people who made this part of their Thanksgiving,” said MUST CEO Dr. Ike Reighard. “It’s such a great Thanksgiving tradition for the Marietta area,” Reighard said. “People have seen the great job (MUST) does helping the less fortunate, and I think our hearts are more in tuned during the holiday season. We start planning months ahead, and when it finally gets here, quite honestly, it’s a relief,” he said. “We knew pretty early on that this was going to be a record deal.”
Unlike the sometimes dog-eat-dog Peachtree Road Race, the Gobble Job is a family affair — a massive “fun run,” if you will. Many participants ran in family groups, such as Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, who rode in the pace car for the 10K and then ran with his family on the 5K. Dr. Reighard had four generations of his family at the event. And Marietta landscape architect Will Goodman told the MDJ he runs the Jog each year with his children and other family members.
“When I go for my second plate at Thanksgiving dinner, it doesn’t feel as bad,” he said. “I am a big fan of MUST. It’s amazing how (the race) has gotten so big.”
Amazing, gratifying — and something to be both thankful for and proud of.