ZEELAND — Thanksgiving started with an 8K road race for about 1,480 people who ran in the fifth annual Zeeland Turkey Trot Thursday morning.

Families running and watching the race that started in downtown Zeeland bundled up in the 20 degree weather with some runners donning turkey hats to keep warm. Several downtown shop owners opened their doors to runners and spectators leading up to the 8 a.m. start time. About 80 volunteers were at the event.

Benefits from the Zeeland Turkey Trot 8K went to City on a Hill nonprofit, which provides affordable space for ministries and other nonprofits as well as caring for families and people in need.

"It's surprising how many people there are in a healthy economy that have needs," said City on the Hill development coordinator Ben Beversluis. "We can't operate without community support like this."

South Haven 20-year-old William Cadwell was the first to cross the finish line in just over 26 minutes. The University of Kentucky student said his family came to the race with him to watch Thursday morning.

Cadwell has ran the Zeeland Turkey Trot the past two years and is an avid runner.

"I feel less guilty later on when I'm eating Thanksgiving dinner," he said.

Ashleigh Merrill and Sara Motman of Allendale had the same idea, but the friends also just enjoy running together.

"We just ran a marathon, so this will probably be our last race of the year," Merrill said.

The race has grown since its first year when about 480 runners ran the 8K race. The event serves as a homecoming in a way for people when they come back for the holiday to visit their hometown, said Jim Broersma, one of the race coordinators.

"We have families sign up for the race, so when people come home for the holiday it's something they do together," Broersma said.

—Follow this reporter on Twitter @SentinelKate.