If you’re a long time resident of Anniston, you may remember piling into a non air-conditioned auditorium at Anniston High School during the summer months of the late 1970’s to see a string of classical plays during the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. This festival was also held in conjunction with one of the largest foot races in the southeast, the Midsummer Morn 5K, which was sponsored by the Anniston Star but promoted and supported by the Anniston Runners Club, which was established in 1980.
In 1986, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival was relocated to Mongomery, AL, but the Anniston Star and Anniston Runners Club continued to support the Midsummer Morn 5K. The club opted to change the race’s name to fit the course on Woodstock Avenue and the Peanut’s character “Woodstock” was inevitably chosen as the mascot. It was then that Woodstock 5K was born.
Patrick Wiggly, owner of Wig’s Wheels in Anniston, first participated in the race in 1992 as a soldier at Fort McClellan. During this time, soldiers were required to run the race. Wiggly says, “I was on the Post running team at the time but didn’t post any kind of result. I did, however, get to witness the coolness of the troops running in formation and singing cadence behind the racers.”
Steven Folks, PARD Director for the City of Anniston, also participated in the race during its early days. Mr. Folks arrived at Fort McClellan as a drill sergeant in 1988. Mr. Folk’s account of the race is very similar to Patrick Wiggly’s- with soldiers running in formation and singing cadences to keep in step- but Mr. Folks expands a bit and adds, “There was a competition within the companies to see who could sing the loudest and impress the crowds. It was the army’s way of sharing their lifestyle with the civilians.”
When Fort McClellan closed in 1997, participation in the race fell significantly. However, due to the dedication of a few members of the Anniston Runners Club, its sponsors, and Anniston High School participation continues to grow again each year. The Anniston Runners Club has seen a huge resurgence to their membership in recent years, growing from 49 members in January of 2006 to more than 300 to date. The Woodstock 5K has paralleled the same growth spurt. Only 79 runners toes the starting line in August of 2005, but almost 1,500 participated in 2014!
Brooke Nelson, the former director of Woodstock, believes the race has survived for many reasons. She says, “Having the Rock Hollow Neighborhood Association embrace us like they have had been huge! They make it so fun to run the training runs. Their energy is infectious. We are good for their neighborhood and they are GREAT for us!” Training runs are usually offered beginning the first week in June. Some training runs may have up to 200 runners, making Woodstock a true community happening.
Woodstock has also continued to grow as a result of the reinstatement of the Grand Prix- a series of local road races throughout northeast Alabama designed to increase participation in area races and increase membership in the Anniston Runners Club. On a national level, Woodstock is listed as a RRCA Southern Region Championship race by the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), and has hosted the National 5K Championship title three times. The RRCA is a national organization dedicated to promoting the development and growth of running clubs and events, much like the Grand Prix. This event not only lures in local runners, but professional runners from all over the country, as well.
On February 26, 2013, the Anniston City Council designated the Woodstock 5K as a historic course and erected historic signs at the Start and Finish lines.
August 6, 2016 will mark the 36th anniversary of this beloved race. A race that has meant so much to so many- whether it be their first 5K or the race they set their personal record on- it’s Woodstock, and you are bound to have a great time!