The Woody’s RV World Marathon can be favourably compared to the venerable postman.
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail . . .
Rain is in the forecast for Sunday’s 16th annual event starting and finishing at Camille J. Lerouge School, but that’s hardly tragic news to race director and co-chair Jason Hazlett.
“I have a crew coming from Bentley to work one of our water stations. They asked me if they would have to (work) in the rain,” Hazlett said Thursday. “I told them yes, and that you have to remember we have runners in the rain, as well.
“To be honest, I don’t mind running in the rain and I know many of these runners want to be cool out there. When you hit the 15 km or 25 km mark you want to be cool and there’s nothing wrong with rain. I don’t mind it at all.”
As of Thursday, this year’s event had attracted 152 runners for the full marathon. Registration numbers showed 808 for the half marathon and 502 for the 10 km, which has gained in popularity since being introduced in 2011.
“We like to stay around the 1,500 mark and we’re just about at that now,” said race directory Darlene Henderson. “That’s perfect for us. We like to keep numbers high, but to a certain extent.
“Because our course runs along the river trail system, we can only have a certain amount of runners on the track. We have a ceiling.”
To date, 1,462 of the registered runners are from Alberta, including 550 from Red Deer as well as defending men’s and women’s champions Brendan Lundy of Camrose and Joelle MacDonald of Airdrie. There are also 13 British Columbia runners, to go with 12 from Saskatchewan, two from each of Manitoba and Quebec, three from each of the Northwest Territories and Ontario and one from the Yukon.
In addition, there are five American runners — three from Wyoming and single runners from Texas and Arkansas — and even one from Switzerland.
“It is an amazing race, obviously very popular with people with Canada and over the years we’ve had international runners as well,” said Henderson. “Part of the reason it stays so popular is we feel it’s a very well organized race.
“The course goes through the river valley and is very nice. It is a tougher course for the marathoners although a lot of people like the challenge. Our half marathon has always been extremely popular because 100 per cent of the route is through the river valley. A few years ago we started up the 10k and that has always sold out very quickly. In the past year we went from 300 to 500 and this year we stayed with that number. We have 502 registered.”
While road racing is not known as a spectator sport, there are locations along the route where people can gather to watch the marathon.
“Heritage Ranch is a great vantage spot for the full and half marathon and the (downtown) train bridge is a good spot to watch the 10k runners,” said Hazlett. “Along 67th Street is also a good place, although there’s not much parking, and River Bend Golf Course is an ideal place to see the marathoners.”
Long-timer race volunteer Bill Nielsen died last month and will be on the minds of his fellow directors this weekend.
“Bill was on our committee when we started the Woody’s Marathon,” said Henderson. “He was a huge member of our committee for a number of years. He loved running and everyone loved Bill. We surely will miss him.”
l The 10k runners will leave the starting line at 7:45 a.m. Sunday, with the rest of the field starting 15 minutes later . . . Sochi Olympics bronze-medal winning speed skater Denny Morrison will be the guest speaker at the pasta dinner Saturday evening at the Black Knight Inn, which will also host a race expo today and Saturday . . . Athletics Alberta has ranked the Woody’s RV Marathon fourth among the top 10 road races in Alberta . . . If he completes this year’s marathon, Roger MacMillan of Fort Saskatchewan, 76, will set a new record for the older finisher . . . The male and female course records are held by Phil Meagher (2:36.58 in 1999) and Sonja Frank (2:59.42 in 2001), both of Fort McMurray.