Things were hopping late Friday morning at Wig’s Wheels bike shop. On the eve of the annual Woodstock 5K road race, competitors were picking up their race numbers and T-shirts.
I counted 25 people involved as either volunteers or participants. Said differently, that figure represented about one-third of all the Woodstock 5K competitors in 2005.
Today, weekday training runs on the hilly Woodstock course easily outdraw the 79 runners who competed in 2005.
About 1,300 runners and walkers competed Saturday in the 2014 version of the Woodstock 5K in Anniston.
Over the past 10 years, the Woodstock 5K has experienced unbelievable growth — organized training runs in the weeks leading up to the big day, training-run water stations thanks to the Rocky Hollow Neighborhood Association, designation as a venue for Road Runners Club of America’s championships (both regional and national) and, as noted above, increased numbers of participants.
All of the above is amazing, yet the Woodstock 5K seems to mean even more to our community. In fact, in my opinion, the Woodstock 5K and volunteers, runners/walkers and well-wishers have become a distinct community.
Allow me to explain. The word “community” in this context can be a slippery concept, something difficult to put your arms around. For starters, there’s not a single, monolithic community. There are many communities. We gather and associate in many places and at different times — churches, schools, neighborhoods, professions, civic clubs, recreational pursuits and extended families. A person might intersect some of these communities. He or she is just as likely to never come into close contact with someone from a different church or a different part of town.
Nothing wrong with that so long as we don’t close ourselves off from other people or other experiences.
However, there are those things that draw us all together for good. In 2011, the deadly storms that swept across Alabama moved practically everyone in the state, whether their house was reduced to rubble or undamaged by the wind. Didn’t matter. The people of our state were unified in seeking out and helping people who needed assistance. I believe everyone wanted to make things better.
Though the circumstances are vastly different — thank goodness — the same sort of unified feel is present at the Woodstock 5K. There’s the festival-like atmosphere in the Anniston High School parking lot. There are the local politicians out to lend their support. There are the friends you bump into at the mass start. There are the friendly homeowners along the course who offer cooling water from their garden hoses.
Let’s not forget the members of the local bike club dressed up like hippies at the second-mile water station. (It’s Woodstock — get it!) There are the football players from Anniston High offering high-fives and encouragement as runners struggle up the course’s final hill. There are the folks along the side of the course cheering runners at the final sprint to the finish. There’s a cool bottle of water handed out by a smiling volunteer.
There are the youngsters anxiously lining up for the start of Kidstock, the one-mile race that follows the Woodstock 5K. There are the hundreds of Woodstock competitors at the end of their race, covered in sweat and carrying a smile that says the hardest part of this day is over.
There is a small army of volunteers who have worked for months. Their single focus has been set on this one day in early August.
“Woodstock is awesome all on its own.” That’s how former Woodstock 5K race director Brooke Nelson put it to Star sports columnist Joe Medley earlier this year. And, I would add, it’s awesome for reasons that stretch well beyond running 3.1 miles.
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: EditorBobDavis