The Woodstock 5K’s success in recent years had been measured in recognition by a national runners association.
The race became the Road Runners Club of America’s state championship for the 5K distance.
Then the RRCA’s Southern Region 5K championship in 2008.
Then the national championship in 2009.
The race dropped back to the Southern Regional championship for this year, and it was natural to wonder whether the bird would still be the word on that first Saturday in August.
With the race a week away, the bird is most definitely still the word — so much so that organizers had to order hundreds of extra bibs and cap the field.
“The championship designations are awesome to have,” race director Brooke Nelson said. “It shows that your race is progressive and that we’re doing something right to get that notoriety, but I think we’ve proved with our numbers that this race is more about our immediate area than about drawing people from all over the country.”
Nelson said registration is “well over” where it was this time last year, and more than 1,000 runners participated in 2009, with the national championship as backdrop.
A total of 926 runners registered for the 2009 Woodstock and 127 for the Kidstock race. This year, organizers planned for 150 in Kidstock, and they ordered 1,125 bib numbers for Woodstock.
Not enough, with the way registration has trended.
Nelson and Anniston Runners Club president Dennis Dunn met this week to discuss options. They can’t order more race shirts at such a late date, but they ordered another 50 numbers and DTag timers for Kidstock and another 200 for Woodstock.
This despite what’s expected to be a smaller field of elite runners.
Of runners currently registered, 93 percent are from Alabama. The next closest state in terms of percentage is Georgia with 4 percent.
Naturally, the bulk of Alabamians registered either live in — or come from — Anniston or surrounding areas.
So the new measure of Woodstock’s rise is not so much about championship designations and the elite field from far away places. It’s more about how Woodstock has energized its base.
Hard to believe, but the event drew just 79 runners only five years ago.
Now, organizers have to cap the field at 1,325.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Nelson said. “I’ve had more phone calls than ever just asking if we still had spots at this time.
“And I want to emphasize, yes, we definitely have spots. There’s no guarantee on the race shirts, but we do have spots to run it.”
Having those problems this year will no doubt help organizers to think big enough for 2011 and the return of the RRCA’s national championship designation. That race will likely draw more elite runners, which makes for another nice problem to have.
But nothing can be more satisfying to those who have grown the Woodstock — and more promising for the event’s future — than the continued surge in the race’s base.
Word to the bird, indeed.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 235-3576 or email@example.com.