Big enough that the field has grown 16 fold in five years.
Big enough that it has national implications in the running community, serving as the Road Runners Club of America’s 5K championship.
Big enough that organizers are starting to conceive of the day when the growth of Anniston’s signature running event will catch up with it. Literally.
The growth of the Woodstock, which is set for its 31st running Saturday, has new race director Dennis Dunn mulling issues of field management, including capping it some day.
Just picture the overall winning runner coming into view before the last walker crosses the finish line on the 3.1-mile loop course.
“One of the things we’re going to be looking at (Saturday) is how long it takes our last runner to get past the finish line,” Dunn said. “And what I mean by the finish line, I mean you pass the finish line twice.”
If that sounds confusing, then digest some simple math first.
The Woodstock went from a field of about 75 finishers in 2006 to a record 1,300-plus in 2010.
The race starts with all of those runners stacked about two blocks behind the start line on a narrow residential street, Woodstock Avenue. Elite runners start up front, and beginning runners and walkers bring up the rear.
Runners wear timing chips, and timing doesn’t start until they cross the starting line.
The starting line sits two-tenths of a mile behind the finish line, so the field crosses the finish line twice — at .2 miles and at the end.
The 2010 winner, Kenyan George Towett, finished in a record time of 14 minutes and 19 seconds. He earned $500 for winning the race and $500 for breaking the course record.
Prize money and continued national-championship designations will continue to attract runners who can challenge the record.
With that in mind, there could come a day when the overall winner could cross the finish line the second time very near the moment when the last walker crosses the first time.
Come Saturday, Dunn said there will be a race official charged with marking how long it takes the final walker to cross the first time. With the field at about 1,300, Dunn estimates the last walker could take nearly 10 minutes.
What if Woodstock continues on its 5-year growth pace?
“We’re kind of curious about that,” Dunn said. “How many more runners can we have on that street?
“… We think we‘re getting close, and we‘ve talked about limiting the number of people that can register.”
Dunn speculated at 2,000.
“We want to make sure that our local runners are taken care of,” Dunn said. “We want to make sure that we still are sought-after by some of the elite runners.
“But we are curious as to how many runners we can put on that street. Are we there yet? I don’t think we are, but I think we may be starting to get an idea about how many runners that can be.”
Dunn said organizers will also look at other field-management issues this year, including organizing runners by various ability levels at the start. In recent years, they’ve simply called elite runners to the front.
“If I expect to run a 25-minute 5K, I don’t need to be up there standing in front of a person who is going to run a 15-minute 5K,” Dunn said. “And we get a lot of people that walk.”
He’s expecting Saturday’s field to come close to the 2010 record of 1,390 registered runners, including 160 that registered the day before the race.
“We’re expecting a similar crowd to what we had last year,” he said. “We’ve been tracking our registration, and it’s been very similar.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.