With Thanksgiving come and gone, some in Waterloo might have noticed a substantial crowd moving through town Thursday morning.
That crowd was the bulk of the ninth annual Rau-a-thon, a growing event that has so far remained a small tradition among those looking to spend time with friends Thanksgiving morning while contributing to a good cause.
The event is named after Nathan Rau, who started the Rau-a-thon with his family and some friends as a more accessible alternative to the St. Louis Turkey Trot, with Rau taking some inspiration from other small events in the area.
“It started just wanting to have a local run on Thanksgiving and then save us a trip to St. Louis,” Rau said. “We had some friends that had done some kinda homegrown events themselves that sort of inspired us. It started out as a reason for a few friends to get together, and it was little more than that.”
While the Rau-a-thon has certainly grown over the last few years, it’s also managed to keep that small get-together atmosphere, with a crowd of roughly 100 people gathering at the Rau home early Thursday morning.
Kicking off this year’s event was a performance of the national anthem on trumpet by Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School music director Chad Minier.
The Rau-a-thon consists primarily of 5K and 10K runs as well as a half-mile race for younger kids hoping to participate – though Rau noted that no real focus is placed on those who finish first.
As the group of people who remain at the Rau home with various refreshments demonstrate, the Rau-a-thon is really meant as something of a party according to Rau, though there is another side to the event.
Over the years, the Rau-a-thon has developed a charity aspect that has steadily grown. It started with Rau accepting donations for the American Heart Association and raising about $1,000.
This year, the event raised $8,000 for the Elsa Fund at Monroe County House of Neighborly Service – to go toward Elsa Wiemerslage. This young local girl has been fighting cancer for several years. Some of the money raised is going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
All this growth has come chiefly from word-of-mouth advertisement according to Rau, who is quite pleased with how the event has developed.
Bertram Hicks, who has attended the event for several years, expressed a similar positivity about the event’s growth.
“We say we keep it under the radar, but at the same time we want it to grow,” Hicks said. “We like the fact that it is getting bigger and bigger every year.”
Hicks spoke about the familiar, local feel of the event, with it being a great opportunity for friends and strangers alike to come together and have a good time.
Frank Weber, who has also been going to the event since its early years, voiced a similar sentiment, speaking fondly of how he has seen friends and others in attendance become mainstays each year.
Hicks also commended Rau and his family for all the work they do to put the event together every Thanksgiving. Hicks said he helps set up the Rau-a-thon’s firepits and other amenities, but Rau’s family have done a tremendous amount to keep the tradition going.
“Any little bit that I contribute is insignificant compared to the amount of effort that Nathan and his family put into it,” Hicks said.
It’s uncertain just how big the Rau-a-thon will become as it continues over the next few years, though Rau and Hicks both mentioned the possibility of the city getting involved should too many runners start to spread out upon Waterloo’s streets.
Rau also mentioned the possibility of this becoming a larger event akin to any other community’s Turkey Trot – though he mainly voiced hope that the Rau-a-thon help participants appreciate the community they’re in.
“I think we just hope people, when they come, walk away with just good feelings about the community that they’re a part of and hopefully meet some new friends, get to see some old friends and everything in between,” Rau said.