E.A. Sports Today

Woodstock rerun: Words, images from 2014

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

If anyone was concerned that the lack of elite runners in the field would impact the draw or the excitement of this year’s Woodstock 5K, they wasted a lot of brain power.

Race director Haley Gregg said the event hit her target, drawing nearly 1,350 registrants with 1,125 starting the big race.

It didn’t quite make the all-time record of 1,561, but there were plenty of runners to make the race as vibrant as ever.

“I’m happy,” Gregg said at the end of the awards ceremony. “I wanted over 1,300 and got that. I couldn’t be happier.”

Race officials cut the perks for the elite runners the race typically draws for budgetary reasons, but that didn’t keep them all away.

Ugandan Olympic hopeful Patrick Cheptoek and Kenya’s Marion Kandie paid their own ways from Bowling Green, Ky., and both won their respective races. For Cheptoek, it was his third straight Woodstock win.

“This is one of the races that has added a new profile to my running career,” Cheptoek said. “This race … is a big deal to me. No matter the sponsorship or not I had to come and run this race.”

In addition to the size of the field, Gregg also praised the army of volunteers that helped the event run smoothly.

In her previous three years helping the organizers, Gregg wouldn’t get home the night before the race until three or four hours before the start. This year, she was in around midnight.

“We had the most people I’ve ever seen on the course,” said former race director and Anniston Runners Club president Brooke Nelson. “Every corner, every turn, everywhere, they were there. There was so much energy in the race it was just amazing.”

PLAYING THE MIND GAME: One of the biggest elements of distance running is training one’s mind as well as the body. Brian Clifton, who celebrated his 56th birthday with a Woodstock run, brought a concept from golf to give runners a plausible target to feel good about their showing.

A lot of people get excited in golf about shooting their age, said Clifton, the assistant maintenance supervisor for the Calhoun County Board of Education. His idea for a satisfying target time in the Woodstock would be running the 5K in half their age.

“If I can run it in 28, I think that’d be good for me,” he said. “Only an old man would come up with this concept.”

His wife Diane just shook her head. She finished in 26:13, second in her age division. For the record, Clifton finished in 38:09 — but beat five runners in his division.

One of the Cliftons’ running partners was using the Woodstock as part of a greater training program. Dr. Matthew Litz, a Birmingham periodontist, is training for the Chicago Marathon. He earned his spot via an entry lottery and this will be his first marathon.

He ran the Woodstock in 23:07, 13th in his age division (131st overall).

“I think a good goal (in Chicago) would be to finish upright – on two legs,” he said.

FAMILY AFFAIR: The husband and wife tandem of Blake and Mary Scott Pearson stood side-by-side atop of the podium among the male and female winners in the 35-39 division.

Blake ran it in 18:24 (18th overall), while Mary Scott ran it in 22:54 (26th among the women).

“They’ve got fast kids, too,” somebody in the audience said as the winners departed the podium.

GIVING BACK: One of the reasons race organizers cut back on the elites this year was to maintain its commitment to the runners and its charitable contribution to the community despite some funding shortfalls.

After the race, it presented checks of $4,000 to Special Olympics and United Cerebral Palsy. It also gave $2,000 to Anniston High School.

Among the team awards, Team Mayhem from David Glass’ Calhoun County Insurance was recognized as most spirited and Team Black Girls Run was recognized for the most participants.

The service group for African-American women had 68 registered runners.

“We’ve had some pretty good-sized teams, but I think they had the most we’ve ever had,” Nelson said. “That’s far and away more than we ever had on a team when I was race director.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

Eventual top three finishers Patrick Cheptoek (1075), Nathan Haskins (1102) and Josh Whitehead (969) pause for the National Anthem before leading the pack out on the Woodstock 5K. Enjoy all the images from Saturday's race. (Photos by Greg McWilliams) (Click to enlarge photos)

Eventual top three finishers Patrick Cheptoek (1075), Nathan Haskins (1102) and Josh Whitehead (969) pause for the National Anthem before leading the pack out on the Woodstock 5K. Enjoy all the images from Saturday’s race. (Photos by Greg McWilliams)
(Click to enlarge photos)


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