A dozen or so more were handling registration forms around the bend and packing the filled bags away, while young children chased each other around the lobby.
Moving at a fast pace, the 50 or so volunteers filled and packed away almost 2,000 goodie bags for participants in Saturday’s Woodstock 5K.
Those 50 folks were a portion of the hundreds helping the Anniston Runner’s Club gear up for its annual Woodstock 5K race. Without them the race –- which had 1,379 runners last year –- would be unwieldy, cumbersome and not nearly as big, said Dennis Dunn, race director.
Standing at the beginning of the assembly line and speaking over the din, the race’s volunteer chair Amie Hinton noted that event would be unmanageable without all the volunteers. The time it would have taken to stuff all the packets without all the volunteers offering two-and-a-half hours is nearly unimaginable.
“Without the volunteers there would be no race,” Hinton said.
By race time Saturday morning, more than 200 volunteers are expected to be on hand, Dunn said. About 135 people will be stationed around the course, not including medical support staff, ham radio operators, police officers and folks manning water stations along the 3.1-mile route. In addition to that, around 75 people from Anniston High School are anticipated to be help out and about 25 people will handle food at the event, Dunn said.
Such are the logistical quandaries of hosting a Road Runners Club of America national 5k championship event with an anticipated turnout of 1,700.
“Without support of people outside the (Anniston Runners) club, the race couldn’t happen to the degree that it happens,” Dunn said. “The growth of the volunteers has really kind of paralleled the growth of the event, thank goodness.”
When the Anniston Runners Club took the race over from The Anniston Star in the mid-1980s – when the Alabama Shakespeare Festival moved to Montgomery and the race went from a “A Midsummer Morn’s 5,000” to the current Woodstock 5K -– there were only about 40 volunteers, said Nancy Grace, former club president and race director.
“Let me tell you it was a struggle to get volunteers, we would literally beg,” Grace said. “We would be up there on race morning at 3:30 and 4 a.m. setting things up.”
A steady stream of runners from Fort McClellan helped the event grow during Grace’s tenure with the club. But after the fort closed around the turn of the millennium, the community’s interest in running seemed to just tail off, Grace said.
When John Moore and Brooke Nelson took over the race in 2006, a year after 79 people raced, they had only about 15 volunteers.
“We would have people just walk up that morning and we would try to convince them to be course marshals,” Nelson said.
But the race grew beyond the scope of 15 people as the runners club began advertising the race heavily on other race websites and in running magazines, Nelson said. Luckily, word got around about the Woodstock 5k and how much fun the event is –- and how cool the shirts are.
And now, the race has grown to the point where volunteering is a tradition. The DD Girls, a community service oriented high school sorority, and the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association have staffed water stations at the first and second mile, respectively, for the last several years.
At the packet-stuffing event Monday night, Hinton scanned the crowd and expressed her amazement at the people who come out, year after year.
That commitment from the community has helped the event grow into what it is now and is likely to help the Woodstock 5k maintain its size in the future.
“A lot of people, they’re calling all the time wanting to help,” Dunn said.
Star staff writer Jason Bacaj: 256-235-3546