A father was coaching his tiring young daughter through Thursday’s Woodstock 5K training run, but it looked like he needed extra voices.
As the man called out for the girl to keep her legs pumping along Davis Avenue, folks seated on a grassy street corner chimed in.
“This is the last big hill!” Teresa Reed called out.
“Go girl!” Teresa Datcher said.
If the ladies’ voices didn’t say it all, their white T-shirts did — “Rocky Hollow Neighborhood Association” in green letters on front and “Friends of Woodstock” in trimmed yellow letters on the back.
It’s year two for the relationship between the area’s signature run and the association representing those who live along its historically marked course, and the relationship is running strong.
Since training runs began in June, members of the neighborhood association have manned the three water stations. Those who don’t hand water to runners find places to sit along the course gush encouragement.
Come today, members of the Rocky Hollow Neighborhood Association will join Anniston Runners Club members in trash pickup. They’ll make sure the course looks its best for the anticipated 1,300 runners who will churn through it during Saturday morning’s race.
On race day, people living along the course will cheer runners and turn on sprinklers for those who need more than encouragement.
For their part, some runners respond with a smile, a wave and gratitude.
“Thank you for being here,” many said as they jogged by Thursday.
Second-year Woodstock race director Haley Gregg said the Rocky Hollow Neighborhood Association’s involvement means “everything.”
“It’s a beautiful thing that’s really upped the safety of our training runs,” she said. “It boosts the morale of our runners. They always comment just how positive it is and how great it is just to see them along the course.
“They help us out in many different ways, other than just being there. If we call on them for certain volunteer activities, they always say yes. It’s just a true partnership, and it’s so special to us and the runners club. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
The Woodstock is in its 34th year and enjoying its greatest growth period, drawing as many as 1,561 runners in 2012. The Road Runners Club of America granted the race a national-championship designation for the 5-kilometer distance the past three years and four of the past five and Woodstock will be the RRCA’s Southern Region 5K championship this year.
The Rocky Hollow Neighborhood Association started last year in hopes of improving life along its East Anniston streets. Datcher, who works for Honda, moved to Rocky Hollow Road four years ago and joined the neighborhood association.
“I want to make it a better, safer place to live,” she said. “It’s been rough the last four years I’ve been living here. I just want to see it be better, be a safer place to live.”
The association gladly answered the call to get involved with Woodstock.
“We were approached by the runners club to see if we would like to partner with them, and so that was one of the things we could do in partnership,” association president Jennifer Maddox said. “We have an historic race through our neighborhood. Of course, that’s neighborhood pride and the ability to be supportive of not just our neighborhood but of the community, the city, and this is a well-known national race.
“So, it puts a good foot forward for the rest of the city for the country.”
Maddox, who lives near the course and chairs the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, has enlisted more than residents. Stringfellow Memorial Hospital lies along the course, and employees Lisa Stone and Lisa DeSimone man the first water station, just past the turn from Christine Avenue onto 19th Street.
“Jennifer was looking at setting up water stations for the runners during practices, so that they don’t get dehydrated and that type of thing,” said Stone, a nurse who lives in Golden Springs and works as Stringfellow’s quality and infection control director. “She asked us if we would like to be involved.
“We were like, ‘Sure, that would be a blast. That sounds like it would be fun to do.’”
Not all runners slow for cup of water to drink or pour on themselves. Serious runners don’t want to lose time, but they see the volunteers’ hospitality and appreciate it.
“I think it is absolutely great,” said Jacksonville’s Suzy Michelson, who runs marathons. “I wish we’d do it that way all the time. It just shows how much as a community we’re really coming together.”
Michelson works in the libraries at Constantine Elementary School and Anniston Middle School. She often sees kids she knows along the course.
She said she’s not surprised to see involvement from members of the neighborhood association but enjoys running the course, even when they’re not out providing water and encouragement.
“I have totally never felt unsafe out here,” she said. “I will tell people point blank. For my first marathon, I would train out here. I would come out by myself at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and I would run the course twice, and I’ve never had any qualms about doing it.”