MARIETTA — In droves, runners and spectators packed the Square and surrounding streets for the running of the 20th MDJ Gobble Jog Thursday morning.
More than 9,300 people competed in this year’s race, dashing, jogging, and strolling up Cherokee Street and back down Church Street to benefit Marietta-based MUST Ministries.
This year’s race was the second since the pandemic began, with decidedly better weather than last year’s frigid affair. Temperatures sat comfortably in the 50s, and the streets stayed dry despite the clouds overhead.
As in years past, the jog brought runners young and old alike, many of them decked out in festive attire. Santa Clauses, turkeys, and dinosaurs could all be seen making their way to the finish line, and a few Marietta firefighters were bold enough to complete the race in full gear.
Alex Alvarez said the Gobble Jog was his second race in as many months after running a 10k in Atlanta in October. He was pleasantly surprised by the big turnout.
“It was fun. I wasn’t as fast as I thought. It was a little crowded at the start, but overall still really good,” Alvarez said.
But, one of his friends noted, he’d opted to run in the untimed group this year — so who’s to say? After the race, he planned to head home and watch World Cup soccer for the afternoon.
MUST Ministries CEO Ike Reighard said this year’s race was another success.
“The community has embraced it. And it benefits MUST, but I think the community has taken ownership,” Reighard said. “…This is a great race. It’s a qualifier for the Peachtree (Road Race), sure, but it also is just doing good. We’re hoping that that good — by the time everything is said and done — is about $600,000 to help us with what we call our wrap-around programming.”
Reighard added, “I’m thankful that we’re able to come out and gather like this. It brings community together. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen our country more divided over a lot of different issues, so when you can find something that kind of binds people’s hearts together, it really is impactful.”
Reighard told the MDJ it was a blessing in itself this year’s race went off without incident.
“It seems like when there’s large gatherings, there’s so many horrible, evil things that have happened … You take a deep breath when it’s over, and you just kind of go, ‘Thank you, God,’ that everybody was safe and it’s been a good day,” he said.
Part of the Gobble Jog’s continued appeal for families is that it welcomes all ages — older athletes were spotted in decade-old race shirts alongside their children or grandchildren.
Jonathan and Katie Davis were the embodiment of that spirit, running — really running — the race last year. But Thursday, they were joined by their toddler Lyla and took things at a more leisurely pace.
“It was more for fun this year than anything else,” Katie Davis said. “I’m thankful for the way our family’s grown this year. (Lyla, their daughter) was really little last year, so it’s been fun to watch the changes.”
Added Jonathan Davis, “Health and family. That’s all.”