E.A. Sports Today

Best seats in the house

Baker family has enjoyed being good neighbors to the Woodstock 5K for nearly two decades; the view on race day ain’t bad, either

By John Baker
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

Some people say home is where the heart is, but at our house, we have simply always said home is where the finish line to the Woodstock 5K is.

Over the years when people ask my wife Monica and I where we live, we usually have three pretty easy answers to offer up — across the street from Anniston High School, two doors down from the Calhoun Baptist Association or just adjacent to the finish line of the Woodstock run.


Unless someone is brand new to the area, one of those answers will usually suffice, rather than someone having to plug our address into a GPS.

On Race Day, my eyes usually pop open about 6 a.m. to the sound of AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells or to Steve Stevens from K98 doing his first sound check of the morning. People always say to us, “You must hate living there when the Woodstock race is going on.” That could not be further from the truth.

I heard Steve reminding folks this morning the race officially began back in 1980. We moved to our house on Woodstock Avenue back in late 2001. I am not sure what the numbers were like back then, but I do know when Brooke Nelson, her husband Tom and the rest of their clan took the reins in 2006, they quickly took it to new heights.

Brooke, or one of her family members, would always make a courtesy house call a week or two before the race to ask for help clearing cars off the street and to “apologize” for the “racket” and “inconvenience” we would experience on the upcoming Friday and Saturday. What Brooke quickly realized about the Baker family is that we kind of liked the “mystique” of saying we live at what is now the historic finish line, as shown by the marker, to one of the finest community events in Anniston.

The volunteers, who still include the Nelson family among many others, can practically build the structures for the start and finish line, put up temporary fencing, prepare swag for the runners, help vendors find their places, do countless other types of prep work, and be out of there by 9 or 10 p.m. on Friday night. They’ve come a long way from tent camping in the grassy area around the high school parking lot, while literally working until the sun comes up on the day of the race. A side note is that Brooke would turn around and run the race while sometimes never even going to bed.

You don’t live in the flow of such a big event for such a long time without seeing a thing or two. I remember coming outside before darling one morning — I believe it was the year Woodstock became a National race — to 50 or more chairs and a few patrons set up all over the lawn. I was also startled by a couple individuals who were on the swing on my front porch when I walked out. Luckily, I knew the folks on the swing, but honestly it probably would not have bothered me if it had been complete strangers that just wanted a nice spot to rest before the race.

An inconvenience? Actually, we kind of miss the days of carrying some water or a snack over to a bleary eyed volunteer at 2 or 3 a.m. to try and help provide a little moral support to get it all complete before daylight. Do we have to sometimes get out and move a barrier to get down the street and into our driveway? Yes. Is it a real nuisance? Not in the least.

The folks putting this event on have always gone out of their way to be sure we feel included in everything that is going on, even if we are not actually participating in the event itself. It is about 2 o’clock on Saturday and all that remains in the vacinity is a few portable bathrooms in the parking lot, a filled up dumpster, an empty set of bleachers, and an emptied out Anniston High School parking lot. The Baker family, minus another child gone away to college, will be ready again this time next year to have one of the best seats in the house for one of the best events of the year for Anniston.

John Baker is an Anniston pharmaceutical rep and a baseball fan. He knows about running the bases, but has never run in the Woodstock 5K.

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