CEDAR RAPIDS — Two decades ago, Thanksgiving looked a lot different for Bob Molsberry.
The lifelong athlete, at age 43, had just emerged from a nearly five-month stay in the hospital after being hit May 30, 1997, by a drunken driver while training for RAGBRAI. He wasn’t supposed to live.
“My surgeon gave me less than a 1-percent chance of survival,” Molsberry said.
But he did survive. And not only that, he thrived — forever changed, in more ways than one. Molsberry rolled out of the hospital a paraplegic in October 1997. By spring, he completed his first marathon via hand cycle. In September 2010, he completed an Ironman.
He’s done dozens of races before and since — including Thursday’s Cedar Rapids Turkey Trot 5K. Molsberry kicked off the race, leading 2,245 participants who turned out under blue skies and crisp conditions. He won his category — although he was the only wheelchair entry.
But winning was far from his focus. When asked what he’s thankful for this year, emotion gave him pause.
“I’m thankful to be here,” Molsberry said. “To have family around. Just the whole thing. To be here and be able to enjoy this. It’s a wonderful day.”
His pregnant daughter, Caitlin Suginaka, pushed his 2-year-old granddaughter, Amaya, through the downtown Cedar Rapids course — weaving in and out of joggers and walkers alike, some clad in faux feathers and turkey-themed tutus. Her husband ran it with one of her close friends from college. The crew also included an aunt, an Ironman finisher as well, and an uncle — all of whom were headed to West Branch for a noon-hour Thanksgiving feast.
“My wife said if we’re not home by 12:30 today for lunch, don’t bother coming home,” Molsberry joked.
Suginaka, 31, is from Grinnell but lives in Seattle today. She and her husband came for the holiday and are planning a longer-term relocation next year when her husband’s medical fellowship will bring him to the University of Iowa.
She’ll have two little ones in tow by then, but that doesn’t mean her trot days are numbered.
“A turkey trot fun run kind of brings everybody together,” she said. “We’re all at different paces, but we’re at least here together, and we finish and go to our meal together after.”
Many of Thursday’s trotters had that meal in mind along the course — using it as motivation.
“We’re earning our turkey,” one mom yelled to her son.
“See you at the cinnamon roll stand,” another shouted. “I’ll eat yours.”
A surprising number of participants donned hats in the shape of stuffed turkeys, and others found festive ways to celebrate the day — one pair made shirts that read, “Pour some gravy on me.”
Organizers said this year’s crowd was bigger than in years past — perhaps due to the sunny weather. The final stretch did prompt some complaints, though.
“I am such an old lady,” 10-year-old Campbell Stockland said after the 2-mile mark.
Overall winners finished the run in 15:30 for the men and 18:58 for the women.
Molsberry clocked in at 19:39. But his time doesn’t matter. His resolve is steadfast.
“I do what I can,” he said. “That’s what we all do. You just take what you’re given, and you give thanks, and you move forward.”