SAN JOSE -- One couple dressed as opposing tech gadgets -- an iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S3 -- with boxing gloves, naturally. A Campbell family showed up as a sushi meal, and a lawyer from Seattle came as a box of takeout Chinese food -- and argued only as a lawyer can against eating "cute" turkeys on Thanksgiving Day.
The eighth annual Applied Materials Silicon Valley Turkey Trot gave Silicon Valley residents reason to put on their running shoes -- and in some cases, wacky costumes -- and hit the hardtop in downtown San Jose early Thursday morning to support the community and three good causes. The fundraiser, which drew a record-breaking crowd just shy of 25,000, raised $750,000 for charity, plus an additional $500,000 from an anonymous technology company CEO.
"I love running, I love having fun, and I love San Jose," said Wayne Mancari, a pastor at Cathedral of Faith in San Jose who showed up as Indiana Jones, complete with a fedora, whip, brown leather jacket, khaki pants and a giant "boulder" that "chased" him through the first race of the day, a 10-kilometer route. He won two round-trip tickets on Virgin America for best non-holiday attire. He should also have won an award for most photographed participant as runners before and after the race asked to pose with him and his boulder, a giant weather balloon wrapped in a synthetic material often used to insulate homes.
This year's race drew participants from around the Bay Area and as far away as Singapore, Stockholm and India. In just eight years, San Jose's Turkey Trot has grown from an idea hatched by Carl Guardino, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and his wife, Leslee, into a major cultural happening.
"It's become a tradition for Thanksgiving," said Applied Materials CEO Mike Splinter before joining the thudding throng.
The Turkey Trot had modest beginnings, with just 1,900 participants and 250 volunteers its first year -- garnering $132,000 for nonprofits. This season, nearly 2,000 volunteers supervised the event, which transforms downtown from a hushed predawn warren of streets into a sea of humanity in a span of 30 minutes before the first race at 7:45 a.m.
"It's awesome to see this crowd," marveled San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, in a blue sweatsuit, before wading into the river of bodies flowing down West Santa Clara Street.
The event included a 5K and 10K race, a costume contest and kids' fun run. Professional runners followed the amateur trotters.
In all, the holiday tradition has raised $3.5 million through corporate and individual donations and runners' registration. The money is distributed to three nonprofits: the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, the Children's Health Initiative of Santa Clara County and the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County.
Guardino attributed the success of the event to the fact all the profits go to charity and heavy sponsorship support from local companies, who compete to see which one can turn out the most participants.
The race, Guardino said, "brings out (the companies') generosity and competitiveness. They want to win."
They also want to have fun, which is what the Turkey Trot is all about.
"It doesn't matter if (participating companies) are competitors," Splinter said. "On Thanksgiving Day, they are about supporting three great charities and supporting the community."
There were turkeys of all shapes and sizes. One runner, looking suspiciously like a turkey but claiming to be a chicken, tossed rubber chickens into the crowd.
And there were those running for the rights of gobblers and hens.
"Eat Chinese! Save a turkey!" clucked Anh Nguyen, the Seattle lawyer dressed in a giant Chinese foot takeout box who was making a case for relatives of the grouse family.
"Turkeys are cute creatures," she said before logging in 6.25 miles, or 10 kilometers.
There were plenty of runners who left the cardboard and tinfoil at home and showed up in more traditional attire: spandex and Nikes. The chilly predawn morning was no deterrent for thousands of runners of all fitness levels.
"We are going to have a nice workout," said Toni Canonico, a Stanford University junior majoring in civil engineering, who showed up with her classmate, Alix Farhat. "It's better than doing nothing, especially on the day that emphasizes sitting around eating all day."
Mancari -- aka, Indiana Jones -- pulled his boulder through the entire downtown racecourse, becoming an inspiration for other runners who, upon spotting his fake rock ahead of them, pushed themselves harder to pass it.
"That was their motivation," he said after crossing the finish line. "I'm glad I helped people run faster."
Lisa Ly and her father, Ba Ly, finished after Mancari and his boulder. Like many others, they paused to take pictures of him.
"It was really good," Lisa, a San Jose resident, said of the invigorating run. "Now, I'm ready to eat."
Contact John Boudreau at 408-278-3496; follow him at Twitter.com/svwriter