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Allyn Ramker is the only runner to have participated in all 31 St. Petersburg Times Turkey Trots

CLEARWATER

Allyn Ramker raced under the digital timers and across the finish line in the 10K Times Turkey Trot, his hair damp with sweat, his strong legs still pumping. As usual, Ramker, the only runner to have participated in all 31 Turkey Trots, settled into the back of the pack while the lead runners jostled in front of him.

To him, just crossing the finish line was victory enough, no matter how long it took.

On May 21, Ramker went in for surgery to fuse four vertebrae. During the procedure, he suffered a stroke on his brain stem. He spent four days in intensive care and could barely walk, much less run.

But he gave little thought to snapping his Turkey Trot streak.

Ramker, 58, said he set one goal while rehabbing — to finish the Turkey Trot.

The milestone was even more special because he did it in honor of his sister, Angela Ramker, and mother-in-law, Felice Benjamin, who died from cancer this year.

"It's been a tough year with so much going on," Ramker said. "It was a race that was real emotional for me."

Ramker was among the 15,415 runners from around the county and state who covered the course in Thursday morning's 5K (3.1-mile) Wingding and Fun Run, 1-mile Gobbler and 10K (6.2-mile) Turkey Trot.

The 5K fun run was the most popular race with 6,277 entrants, compared with 3,600 for the 5K Wingding, 2,939 for the 1-mile Gobbler and 2,599 for the 10K Turkey Trot.

The races brought out all kinds of participants, from elite runners aiming for top times to the more casual ones intent on completing the course at a leisurely pace.

Then there were those who played dress up.

Matthew Mertin, 13, dressed up in a full Turkey costume, thanks to the encouragement of his mother, Barb Gibbs.

"I wanted him to do something that would help him be a part of this great event," Gibbs said.

In Thursday's 5K races, Russell Snyder and Jacki Wachtel were the men's and women's winners, respectively.

Former Keswick Christian and USF standout Christa Benton won her fifth straight women's 10K title.

Tony Nicolosi, a former star at Seminole, won the men's title for the first time.

And then there was Ramker, who finished the 10K in 54 minutes, 56 seconds.

After the race, Ramker acquired a growing entourage. In addition to race officials and a swarm of reporters and camera operators, he was accompanied by several family members and friends.

"I was nervous having so many people there for me," Ramker said. "But this is what Thanksgiving is all about, being surrounded by those that are close to you."

Allyn Ramker is the only runner to have participated in all 31 St. Petersburg Times Turkey Trots 11/26/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 10:02am]
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