Day at the races

Janine Reale

Photo courtesy of Janine Reale

What is the best way to prepare for your Thanksgiving gorging this year? You could sit with in-laws that drive you crazy watching the Detroit Lions lose another Thanksgiving game. Or, you can prepare by burning some calories you’ll certainly gain back by participating in the fourth annual Run for Food in Bidwell Park. The 5k run raises funds for the Jesus Center. Last year, the Run for Food raised around $50,000. This event is the proud creation of Michael and Janine Reale, who are happy to put on an event that brings the community together and gives hope to those who need it the most. For more information, go to Race-day registration is from 7-8:30 a.m., Thanksgiving day, at Sycamore Field. Adults $30; children (timed) $25; untimed free.

What inspired you and your husband to start Run for Food?

Janine: We participated in a similar event in Sacramento a few years ago, and it was such a great race. So we thought an event like that would be popular in Chico.

Why the Jesus Center?

Because it is a wonderful organization that provides food to the homeless and shelter for women and children in need [the Sabbath House]. They need the people of this community for support, and our event provides that.

How is the turnout looking for this year?

As of [Nov. 20] there are around 2,200 people signed up for Thanksgiving Day. Every year we have seen an increase of about 700 participants, and we are close to that again this year. Our first year, we were anticipating about 200 people, and we ended up having around 1,039.

What is the most rewarding part of the race?

Just seeing the joy felt on that day by the runners. It’s great to see families come together and see so much money raised for the homeless and shelter for women and children.

How much time do you and your husband spend organizing this event?

The first two years my husband and I were co-chairs, but last year we assigned a race director who now does a lot of the work. It doesn’t become very time-consuming until August, when we spend 30 to 40 hours a week putting the race together until Thanksgiving. We are fortunate to have Sonja Arnet as our race director; she’s been marvelous.

Is there a favorite moment that stands out?

I always love right before every race, standing in front of that start line, and seeing the sea of people. It’s great seeing generations of families coming together. It’s an amazing experience.