Thousands gathered Thanksgiving morning to run the eighth annual 30A 10K race in Rosemary Beach.

ROSEMARY BEACH — When asked his favorite part of the 30A 10k race held every Thanksgiving morning in Rosemary Beach, Craig Baranowski paused and looked around.


“That’s it,” he said, pointing to a young boy wearing a medal from the 1-mile fun run while dancing with his grandfather after the eighth annual race. Baranowski, one of the three race directors, can’t exactly name his favorite part; he sees it all around him.


“It’s changed from just a 10k race to a family race,” Baranowski said. “We see people evolve. One of my friends, his wife ran the 10k. Her son started out on the fun run and now, eight years later, he ran the 10k today. The husband’s doing the 5k and the grandparents are doing the fun run.


Everyone’s smiling, having fun and dancing. That’s it – seeing everybody enjoy themselves.“


More than 3,000 runners participated in the fun run, 5k and 10k combined to raise more than $90,000 for the following local charities: Girls Inc. of Bay County, The Foye Belle Foundation, Anchorage Children’s Home, Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.


Christen Black from Chicago, Illinois, has participated in the 30A 10k the past four years while visiting the area. While running isn’t her forte, she said, she participates because of the camaraderie and spirit of the race.


“This community is so fantastic even though it’s transient,” Black said. “Everyone’s friendly. Everyone appreciates the things that are here.”


The event is a family affair. Many runners came with their own cheering sections composed of their friends, families and four-legged fur children.


After Destin resident Katja Blunden placed top three in the women’s category of the 10k, she greeted her husband, Matt, and daughter Henriikka, 5, at the finish line. Matt won second place in the men’s category in 2018.


“This is my first time,” Blunden said. “Last year my husband did it, so I was babysitting. Now we changed.”


Some participants ran with their families.


Twin sisters Priscilla Mantilla and Jennifer Lopez-Martinez from New Orleans, Louisiana, left their husbands at the vacation home to fry the turkey while they ran their first 30A 10k together. They have run two marathons together.


“I just Googled it, because we normally do a turkey day race over there, so we wanted to see if they had one here,” Mantilla said. “We live in the same neighborhood, so we run every Sunday together. She beat me today. She’s never beat me in a 10k before, so that’s really good. She keeps saying I let her, but I didn’t.”


The two planned to go on a Thanksgiving cruise with their families that night.


Like Mantilla and Lopez-Martinez, Karen Meadows has a longtime running partner. Co-race directors Meadows and Amy Stoyles met through running and have been best friends for 10 years.


“We run the 10k course after the race is over with every year as a tradition, just as the Boston Marathon race director does,” Meadows said. “I get through it somehow. My legs will be fried.”


Meadows started the charity race eight years ago because she wanted a race with a 10k distance near where she lives in Rosemary Beach. She wanted to give back to the community for Thanksgiving.


“It’s the most popular day of the year for a race, according to Runner’s World Magazine, because people love to come out and celebrate the spirit of giving back and enjoying a big lunch or dinner after they burn a few calories,” Meadows said.


The race has grown by about 15% since 2018, Baranowski said. It’s humbling, he said.


While Meadows and Stoyles planned to run the empty course and eat out for dinner, Baranowski always spends the rest of the day at home with his family.


“I come home and my wife gives me a big giant plate of stuffing,” Baranowski said. “I eat that, pass out and sleep before Thanksgiving dinner.”


RELATED: Last year’s 30A 10K.